Contamination by trace elements of agricultural soils around Sidi Bou Othmane in abandoned mine tailings in Marrakech, Morocco

Document Type : Original Research Paper


1 Laboratoire de Toxicologie et d’hygiène Industrielle, 1 rue Gaston Veil, 44035, Nantes Cedex, France; Laboratoire Régional du diagnostic épidémiologique et d’hygiène du milieu, Avenue des hôpitaux, Marrakech, Maroc

2 Département de Biologie, Faculté des Sciences Semlalia, Bd Moulay Abdellah Bp, 2390-40001, Marrakech, Maroc

3 Laboratoire de Toxicologie et d’hygiène Industrielle, 1 rue Gaston Veil, 44035, Nantes Cedex, France



This study was carried out for the purpose of investigating the issue of tailings dams as a potential source of contamination by trace elements in soils at the Sidi Bou Othmane mine in the Marrakech Region, Morocco. Soil samples taken from depths of up to 15 cm and within a radius of 50 m from the tailings dams, were analyzed for Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn using atomic absorption spectrometry. Average concentrations of Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn in soils around the abandoned tailings dams were, respectively, 157.2±8.8, 969.1±38.7, 1640.7±42.7 and 2846.8±84.6 mg/kg. Soils in the vicinity of the decommissioned tailings dams registered increased values for Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn. Contamination factors (CF) and pollution index (PI) were calculated in order to estimate the anthropogenic contribution of target pollutants which determined Cd, Cu, Pb and Zn as the main pollutants in this region. The results revealed the polluted areas in the vicinity of the mine, especially two rural communities apparently linked to the lack of appropriate measures to counteract the effects of these mine tailings, which were causing a progressive contamination of the soil with residues of heavy metal emissions in this region under study. Improved strategies for the management of tailings, among other factors, might have influenced the reduced level of contamination by trace elements at the abandoned mine tailings dam sites.


Allen, S.E., Grimshaw, H.M., Parkinson, H. M. & Quarmby, J.A. (1974). Chemical Analysis of Ecological Materials. Blackwell Scientific publications, Oxford.
Alloway, B.J. (1995). The origins of heavy metals in soils. In: Alloway B.J. (Ed.), Heavy Metals in Soils. Blackie Academic and Professional Publ., New York. 368 pp.
Avila, M., Perez, G., Esshaimi, M., Mandi, L., Ouazzani, N., Brianso, J.L. and Valiente, M. (2013), Heavy Metal Contamination and Mobility at the Mine Area of Draa Lasfar (Morocco). Open Environ. Pollut. Toxicol. J, 3(1) 2-12
Barkouch, Y., El Fadeli, S., Khadiri, M. and Pineau, A. (2015), Study of potential environmental risk of trace metallic elements in mine tailings: Case of Draa Lasfar functional mine in Marrakech – Morocco. Afr. J. Agri. Res, 10(33), 3246-3252.
Bolan, N.S. and Duraisamy, V.P. (2003). Role of inorganic and organic soil amendments on immobilisation and phytoavailability of heavy metals: a review involving specific case studies. Aust. J. Soil Res., 41, 533-555.
Brigden, K., Labunska, I., Santillo, D. and Johnston, P. (2008). Chemical contamination at e-waste recycling and disposal sites in Accra and Korforidua, Ghana. Greenpeace Research Laboratories Technical Note. Greenpeace International, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.
Council of the European Communities, (1986). Directive (86/278/EEC) on the protection of the environment, and in particular of the soil, when sewage sludge is used in agriculture. Official Journal of the European Communities, L181, 6–12.
De Matos, A.T., Fontes, M.P.F., Da Costa, L.M. and Martínez, M.A. (2001) Mobility of heavy metals as related to soil chemical and mineralogical characteristics of Brazilian soils. Environ. Pollut., 111, 429-35.
El Hamiani, O., El Khalil, H., Sirguey, C.,Ouhammou, A., Bitton, G., Schwartz, C. and Boularbahh, A. (2015), Metal Concentrations in Plants from Mining Areas in South Morocco: Health Risks Assessment of Consumption of Edible and Aromatic Plants, CLEAN Soil, Air, Water, 43 (3), 399–407.
Esshaimi, M., Ouazzani, N., El Gharmali, A., Berrekhis, F., Valiente, M. and Mandi, L. (2013), Speciation of Heavy Metals in the Soil and the Tailings, in the Zinc-Lead Sidi Bou Othmane Abandoned Mine. J. Environ. Earth. Sc, 3(8), 138-146.
Favas, P.J.C., Pratas, J., Elisa, M., Gomes, P. and Cala, V. (2011). Selective chemical extraction of heavy metals in tailings and soils contaminated by mining activity: Environmental implications, J Geochem. Explor., 111, 160-171.
Gonçalves, E.P.R., Boaventura, R.A.R. and Mouvet, C. (1992). Sediments and aquatic mosses as pollution indicators for heavy meatls in the Ave River Basin (Portugal). Sci. Total Environ., 114, 7-24.
Gonçalves, E.P.R., Soares, H.M.V.M., Boaventura, R.A.R., Machado, A.A.S.C. and Esteves Da Silva, J.C.G. (1994). Seasonal variations of heavy metals in sediments and aquatic mosses from the Cavado river basin (Portugal). Sci. Total Environ., 142, 143-156.
Horton, J. and Newson, D. (1953). A Rapid Gas Evolution for Calcium Carbonate Equivalent in Liming Materials. Soil Sci. Soc. Am. Proc. 17, pp. 414-415.
Jung M.C., Thornton I. and Chon H.T. (2002). Arsenic, Sb and Bi contamination of soils, plants, waters and sediments in the vicinity of the Dalsung Cu-W mine in Korea. Sci. Total Environ., 295, 81–89.
Kabata-Pendias, A. and Pendias, H. (2001). Trace Elements in Soils and Plants. CRC Press, London.
Liu, W.X., Coveney, R.M. and Chen, J.L. (2003). Environmental quality assessment on a river system polluted by mining activities. Appl. Geochem., 18, 749–764.
Morgan, J.J. and Stumm, W. (1995). Chemical processes in the environment, relevance of chemical speciation. In “Metals and Their Compounds in the Environment” (E. Merian, ed.). pp. 67-103. VCH, Weinheim.
Nelson, D.W. and Sommers, L.E. (1982). Total carbon, organic carbon and organic matter. In Page, L. (Ed.), Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 2.
Agronomy 9. American Society of Agronomy, Madison, WI, pp. 279-539.
Ritchie, G.S.P. and Sposito, G. (2002). Speciation in soils. In “Chemical Speciation in the Environment” (Ure A., Davidson C.M., eds.), pp. 237-264. Blackwell, Oxford.
Sanchez, J., Vaquero, C. and Legorburu, I. (1994). Metal pollution from old lead-zinc mine works : biota and sediment from oirtzun valle, Environ. Technol., 15, 1069-1076.
Shepard, F.P., and Moore, D.G. (1954). Sedimentary environments differentiated by coarse fraction studies: Bull. Am. Assoc. Petrol. Geologists., 38, 1792-1802.
Tahiri, M., Benyaïch, F., Bounakhla, M., Bilal, E., Gruffat, J.J. and Moutte, J. (2005). Multivariate analysis of heavy metal contents in soils, sediments and water in the region of Meknes (central Morocco). Environ. Monit. Assess., 102, 405–417.
Wang, G.P., Liu, J.S. and Tang, J. (2004). The long-term nutrient accumulation with respect to anthropogenic impacts in the sediments from two freshwater marshes (Xianghai Wetlands, Northeast China). Water Res., 38(20), 4462- 4474.