Elevated toxicity of resuspended mine tailings over time

Resuspension of disposed mine tailings is an important secondary source of heavy metal pollution in affected regions. UK copper mine tailings were continuously resuspended in seawater over 14 days to understand potential metal dissolution and associated ecotoxicological impacts. Aqueous concentrations of arsenic increased 859%, nickel 85%, manganese and cadmium over 40%, and vanadium and zinc over 20%. Green sea urchin (Psammechinus miliaris) gametes were exposed to 18-h (18hr) and 14-day (14d) resuspension elutriates. Fertilisation success dropped from 72% (18hr) to 21.06% (14d). Toxicity Index (TI) values (reduced fertilisation membrane quality and fertilisation success) increased from 1.6 (18hr) to 2.8 (14d). Embryo polyspermy frequencies increased from 17.58% (18hr) to 21.13% (14d). Higher TI values and polyspermy rates indicate impacts may go beyond standard bioassay endpoints. Current predictions of mine tailing impacts may be underestimated. This is important for ecosystem resilience when considering other anthropogenic stressors such as climate change.


Ramdial KS, Abell R and Last KS

Marine Environmental Research 171
08, 30, 2021
Pages: 105471
DOI: 10.1016/j.marenvres.2021.105471