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Science of The Total Environment
Volume 760, 2021, 143393

Blended municipal compost and biosolids materials for mine reclamation: Long-term field studies to explore metal mobility, soil fertility and microbial communities

Asma Asemaninejada, Sean Langleya, Ted Mackinnona, Graeme Spiersb,c, Peter Beckettb,d, Nadia Mykytczukb,c, Nathan Basilikob,d

Natural Resources Canada, CanmetMINING, 555 Booth Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G1, Canada.


Application of stable soil amendments is often the key to successful phytostabilization and rehabilitation of mine tailings, and microbial guilds are primary drivers of many geochemical processes promoted by these amendments. Field studies were set up at a tailings management area near Sudbury, Ontario to examine performance of blends of lime stabilized municipal biosolids and compost at nine different rates over thick (1 m) municipal compost covers planted with agricultural crops. Based on biogeochemical variability of the substrates four and ten years after application of the initial compost cover, the experimental plots could be classified into three categories: “Low” rate (0–100 t ha-1 biosolids), “Medium” rate (200–800 t ha-1), and “High” rate (1600–3200 t ha-1) treatments. The addition of biosolids materials to the thick compost cover at rates higher than 100 t ha-1 significantly reduced C:N ratio of the substrates, available phosphorus, and some of the nutrient cations, while notably increasing inorganic carbon and the potential solubility of Ni and Cu. This suggests that increasing biosolids application rates may not equivalently ameliorate soil quality and geochemical stability. Correspondingly, microbial communities were altered by biosolids additions, further intensifying the negative impacts of biosolids on long-term efficiency of the initial compost cover. Abundance of cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignocellulose decomposers (as key drivers of mineralization and humification) was significantly reduced by “Medium” and “High” rate treatments. Most DNA sequences with high affinity to denitrifiers were detected in “High” rate treatments where geochemical conditions were optimal for higher microbial denitrification activities. These findings have implications for improving the long-term efficiency of reclamation and environmental management programs in mine tailings of northern temperate climates.

Keywords: Bacteria, Fungi, Microbial community, Tailings, Organic cover, Municipal biosolids.

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