Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2009

Effects of sewage sludge on solution chemistry and plant uptake of Cu in sulphide mine tailings at different weathering stages

Forsberg, Lovisa Stjernman; Kleja, Dan Berggren; Greger, Maria; Ledin, Stig


This climate chamber experiment examines the effects of sewage sludge (SS) on sulphide mine tailings from the Aitik Cu mine in northern Sweden. The effects of SS were determined from Cu in solution and Cu uptake and growth of plants on tailings showing 3 different degrees of weathering. Possible relationships between Cu content in plants and Cu in solution measured in tailings (total dissolved Cu and free Cu) were also evaluated. Red fescue (Festuca rubra) was grown for 6 weeks in pots of the different tailings treated with SS or NPK fertiliser. Soil solution was sampled with Rhizon tension lysimeters and analysed for pH, dissolved organic C (DOC), free Cu, total dissolved Cu and SO(4)(2-). The effects of SS on Cu in solution and plants depended on the degree of weathering. In tailings with a low degree of sulphide oxidation, SS application resulted in increased solubility and shoot accumulation of Cu compared with NPK-treated tailings, probably due to DOC forming soluble complexes with Cu. Sewage sludge also seemed to promote translocation of Cu to shoots in those tailings. In highly weathered tailings, lower contents of total dissolved Cu and free Cu in solution and lower Cu levels in shoots were found in SS-treated samples than in NPK-treated. In the moderately weathered tailings, Cu concentrations in solutions were generally similar between treatments, but lower contents of Cu were found in shoots and roots of the fescue grown in the SS-treatment. Irrespective of degree of weathering and treatment, both free Cu and total dissolved Cu concentration in tailings correlated strongly with Cu levels found in fescue shoots. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Published in

Applied Geochemistry
2009, Volume: 24, number: 3, pages: 475-482