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Environmental fate & pathways

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Heavy metals are common environmental pollutants that have increased their concentration and bioavailability by biota because of industrial activity such as mining. In the case of pyrite deposits, natural weathering interaction generates large amounts of effluents named “acid mine drainage” (AMD), characterized by the presence of toxic metals such as Zn, Pb, Cu, Mn, Cd, Mo, Cr and Ni in low pH solution.

These chemical conditions often increase the bioavailability of metals potentially toxic levels and, consequently, the environment risk of these deposits remain long after mines have been abandoned.

Metal bioaccumulation is a process that occur in plant, microorganism or animal. Differently to organic substance that could be degraded, pyrite cinder tend to accumulate in different tissues depending on the metal characteristics. This behaviour is especially dangerous in the case of arsenic that is highly toxic towards many terrestrial and aquatic organisms and microorganisms.