Acid mine drainage in semi-arid regions: the extent of the problem in the waters of reservoirs in the Iberian Pyrite Belt (SW Spain)

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There are many reservoirs in the Iberian Pyrite Belt (IPB), SW Spain, which receive contributions from watercourses affected by acid mine drainage processes, characterised by low pH values and high concentrations of heavy metals and sulphates. When they reach the reservoirs, the waters increase its pH, which will cause most of the metal load carried by the mining channel to precipitate into the reservoir itself and accumulate on its floor. The silting of reservoirs is an environmental problem which can affect the loss of storage capacity, their general functioning and aquatic ecosystems. A study of these is vital to allow both preventative and corrective measures to be established. Climatic conditions are the most significant external controlling factors in terms of the degree and type of mining pollution. The study area presents characteristics typical of the semi-arid Mediterranean climate, with annual precipitation of around 630 mm/year; moderate temperatures with average annual values of 17.1 °C and a temperature range of 50 °C. The aim of this study is to carry out a physical–chemical characterization of the waters where they enter the reservoirs located in the IPB over the course of a hydrological year and to establish possible interdependencies between the various parameters.

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