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Issue 2, 2003
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Monitoring of copper, arsenic and antimony levels in agricultural soils impacted and non-impacted by mining activities, from three regions in Chile

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This paper reports a comparative study of the concentration of three important environmental elements that are often found together in mineral deposits and then associated with mining activities; copper, arsenic and antimony. These elements were determined in 26 different agricultural soils from regions I, II and V in Chile, zones where the most important and biggest copper industries of this country are located. As background levels of these elements in soils have not been well established, in this study, both, impacted and non-impacted agricultural soils from different regions were considered. The relationships between the concentrations of these elements in soils were also examined. The concentration ranges for copper, arsenic and antimony were 11–530; 2.7–202 and 0.42–11 mg kg−1 respectively. The copper concentrations in non-polluted soils from the north and central zone of Chile were similar. However, three sites from the north region have copper concentration as higher as 100 mg kg−1, values that exceed the critical concentration for copper in soils. The concentration of arsenic and antimony in the north soils were higher than in non-impacted ones and, in the case of arsenic, greatly exceeded the world average concentration reported for this element in soils. The highest arsenic and antimony concentrations were found in Calama and Quillagua soils, two different sites in the Loa valley. The arsenic/antimony concentration ratio was higher in Quillagua soil. The high concentrations of three elements determined in impacted soils from region V (Puchuncaví and Catemu valleys) clearly shows the impact produced in this zone by the industrial and mining activities developed in their proximities. At Puchuncaví valley a clear decrease was observed in copper, arsenic and antimony concentrations in soils on the function of the distance from the industrial complex “Las Ventanas”, and all concentrations exceeded the reported critical values for this matrix. Instead at Catemu valley, only the copper concentration was higher than this value. Statistically significant correlation was found for Cu–Sb in all soils; more significant Cu–As, Cu–Sb and Sb–As correlations were evaluated for soils from Puchuncaví and Catemu valleys, corroborating that high concentrations of copper, arsenic and antimony in these soils coming from the same pollution sources, the copper industry and the thermoelectric power plant.

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Publication details

The article was received on 22 Nov 2002, accepted on 07 Jan 2003 and first published on 24 Jan 2003

Article type: Paper
DOI: 10.1039/B211469K
Citation: J. Environ. Monit., 2003,5, 287-295
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    Monitoring of copper, arsenic and antimony levels in agricultural soils impacted and non-impacted by mining activities, from three regions in Chile

    I. De Gregori, E. Fuentes, M. Rojas, H. Pinochet and M. Potin-Gautier, J. Environ. Monit., 2003, 5, 287
    DOI: 10.1039/B211469K

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