Mineralogical and environmental features of the asturian copper mining district (Spain): A review

R. Álvarez, A Ordóñez, A. Pérez, E. De Miguel, S. Charlesworth

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    17 Citations (Scopus)
    239 Downloads (Pure)


    Persistence and bioavailability of heavy metals in soils adjacent to ancient Cu mines continues to be a possible threat to human health. However, there have been very few studies to determine this risk. Asturias (Northwest of Spain) is a Cu metallogenic province with abundant epithermal-type deposits, whose paragenetic sequences also include As, Co, Ni, Sb and Hg minerals. Several Cu mines have been worked in this region since prehistoric times and the six most significant ones are studied in this work to provide new insights into the potential for both contemporary and past contamination due to Cu mining to impact human health. The main characteristics of each deposit were defined by means of optical and scanning-electron microscopy, X-ray diffraction and Electron Probe Micro Analysis. These characteristics were used to better interpret the environmental results, obtained from samples of mining wastes, soils and waters, which were analyzed by means of X-ray fluorescence and ICPMS.
    Many of these mines are almost forgotten, but their negative effects will endure over time, since they were abandoned long before the introduction of environmental regulations to control metal release. An inheritance of derelict mine facilities and spoil heaps still remains in the sites of this district. The spoil heaps are the main pollution sources and concentrations of up to 2.1% Cu and 0.4% As, among others, were found in the surrounding soils. The potential adverse health effects of the exposure to these elements have been assessed, finding significant risks for potential receptors, such as farmers or local residents.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)206-217
    Number of pages12
    JournalEngineering Geology
    Early online date5 Jul 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


    • Copper mining Mineralogical and geochemical characterization of mine wastes Arsenic Risk assessment
    • Asturian copper district


    Dive into the research topics of 'Mineralogical and environmental features of the asturian copper mining district (Spain): A review'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this