Evaluation of Metal Contamination and Soil Properties at Former Mine Sites in Poland

by Kaitlyn McClung and Emily Brooks

Faculty mentor: Dr. Melanie Szulczewski

Surface mining dramatically affects the environment, both where the resource extraction takes place and in the areas where mining wastes and overburden are deposited. Poland is Europe’s top coal producing country and is also home to many mines for pyrite, sand, and other mineral resources. We studied soil samples from three former mining areas in Poland: the Bełchatów and Smolnica coal mines, and the Piaseczno sulfur mine. Various substrates, amendments, and trees had been used for remediation, with activities taking place up to 36 years previously. The success of reforestation and soil development varied greatly, especially in pH, organic matter, and metal concentrations.

2 Replies to “Evaluation of Metal Contamination and Soil Properties at Former Mine Sites in Poland”

  1. I noticed that the soil samples that were taken were only from a depth of 5cm deep, and that most of the soils consisted of a sandy composition, which is the most porous and least water retaining soil composition layer as compared to clay and especially silt. Would these be able to have an accurate reading of the true pH levels from these locations, being such a shallow depth and porous material? I know tree and plant roots would extend far greater than 5cm within the soil, so would this depth really give an accurate reading of the true landscape in the terms that it could harvest plentiful vegetation? I thought that the it was a very good step though that these coal mining plants have a remediation team that works along side of them as they are working with these coal mining operations, but I find it a little concerning that they didn’t dig too deep into the ground, which would give us a better picture of how multiple soil layers would be impacted. I think that 5cm would barely cover the top soil layer in the horizon. I do think it is important to stud the impacts of other countries who might have lesser environmental regulations as compared to the United States, and it does help seeing that other countries that are largely dependent upon coal for their main source of energy, to at least be reporting and remediating the environmental impacts that their operations might have on the environment. 

  2. Hi Emily and Kaitlyn,
    Excellent job to you both! Very interesting project; I’m sorry you didn’t get to go to Poland to collect the samples ;). I hear it’s beautiful! The Department is very proud of you both!

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