Mine Tailing: Phytostabilization

It has been determined by the Universidad de Sonora team, that the tailings represent a high risk of collapse due to the instable slope and high erosion. There is also a potential danger to human health resulting from the dispersion of fine dust particles.  These particles are taken up into the atmosphere by wind currents and transported into the community; settling in homes and the environment.  As a result, the binational research group has worked towards studying the structure of the tailings, local atmospheric trends, and the geohydrology of the regional watershed.  Greenhouse studies have also been incorporated by the University of Arizona in order to develop a phytostabilization plan.   

What are the potential solutions?

  • Physically stabilize the mine tailings (reshaping of the slope) to eliminate the potential threat of collapse.
  • Eliminate any recreation or human activity on the mine tailings since it can add to the instability and erosion issues.
  • Canalize rain water away from the foot of the tailings in order to prevent landslides.
  • Increase the amount of vegetation in nearby homes, particularly trees, in order to reduce dust dispersion (green barrier).
  • Reroute the traffic of bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles away from the tailing to prevent further dust generation and decrease erosion.
  • Implement a phytostabilization plan using native vegetation, which can both tolerate the local climate and can proliferate with low maintenance.



Meza-Figueroa D, Maier RM, de la O-Villanueva M, Gomez-Alvarez A, Moreno-Zazueta A, Rivera-Castelo J, Campillo-Castelo A, Grandlic CJ, Palafox-Reyes J. 2009. The impact of unconfined mine tailings in residential areas from a mining town in a semi-arid environment: Nacozari, Sonora, Mexico. Chemosphere 77(1):140-147.

Grandlic CJ, Hernandez HAZ, Hayes S, Chorover J, Meza D, Bashan Y, Maier RM. 2009. In press. Plant species and plant growth-promoting bacteria suitable for the restoration of semiarid mine tailings in Nacozari, Sonora Mexico. J Environ. Qual.