Earthworm (Eisenia Fetida) bioassay to assess the possible effects of platinum tailings disposal facilities on the environment along a gradient
Van Rensburg, L.
Jansen van Rensburg, P.J.
MetadataShow full item record
Platinum mines produce large amounts of inorganic tailings containing high levels of metals which are disposed of on tailings disposal facilities (TDFs) and there is no information available on their possible effects on the surrounding terrestrial environment. The aim of this study was to do an earthworm bioassay of soils along a gradient from a TDF over a period of 28 days in terms of growth, reproduction and metal accumulation. After 28 days the earthworms in the soil collected up to 1 km away from the TDF showed a significant (P < 0.05) decrease in bodyweight and in the soil 2−5 km away showed no effect. The earthworms in the soil collected 15 km away from the TDF showed a significant (P < 0.05) increase in bodyweight. The mean hatching success of cocoons was significantly (P < 0.05) higher in the soils further away from the TDF viz. 15 km > 3−5 km > 2−0 km. Cr, Cu, Ni and Zn concentrations in the soils collected in the soils on the platinum TDF (TDF − 15 km in the case of Zn) were higher, while Cd, Co and Pb were lower when compared to screening benchmarks proposed by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. The presence of these metals in a mixture, however, makes it extremely difficult to assess their effects. All of the metals had low bioconcentration factors (BCFs) viz. < 0.01 (CR, Ni and Pb), 0.01 (Co), 0.33−0.5 (Cd), 0.01−0.08 (Cu) and 0.18−0.29 (Zn). It can be concluded that platinum mining, with TDFs as source of contamination, has negative effects on the environment but further studies are needed to assess the exact extent of these effects