Mine tailings present an important legacy of past and present ore-extraction activities in the Desert Southwest. Inactive mine tailings have no immediate economic role in current mining operations, yet from an environmental point of view it is important that such deposits are stabilized to prevent mass movement, wind or water erosion, leaching of chemicals such as acid mine drainage, and to reduce visual blight. In the presented study, we assess the potential for inferring textural properties of mine tailing deposits with electromagnetic induction (EMI) mapping as a means of informing efforts to establish vegetation at mine waste sites. EMI measurements of apparent electrical conductivity (ECa) and tailing samples were collected at a mine waste site in Southern Arizona, USA and used to test empirical and theoretical relationships between ECa and physical and mineralogical properties using linear and Gaussian process regression. Sensitivity analyses of a semi-theoretical and a regression model of ECa as a function of tailing properties indicated that volumetric clay fraction in the top 60cm was a primary influence on bulk electrical conductivity along with water content, conductivity of the soil water and the presence of conductive minerals hematite and pyrite. At this site, latitude and longitude were better predictors of clay content than ECa, and while it was possible to obtain information about the spatial distribution of tailing texture using EMI, simple Kriging of texture data was a more powerful textural mapping technique. We conclude that EMI is a useful tool for mapping tailing texture at waste deposit sites, but due to physical and chemical heterogeneity of tailing deposits, it is necessary to collect more in situ samples than are needed for agricultural applications.
- Apparent electrical conductivity
- Electromagnetic induction
- Mine tailings
- Nonlinear regression
ASJC Scopus subject areas