Mining practices and the absence of proper mine land reclamation has led to heavy
metal contaminated sites with serious impact on the ecosystems and risk for human
health. The origin of the contamination is often associated to mine tailing deposits
because they are a source of the acid mine drainage (AMD). These areas are devoid
of vegetation due to the harsh soil conditions that prevent the rooting of plant species.
The remediation of these areas followed by revegetation is necessary to suppress the
generation of the AMD and its negative effects on the ecosystems. Conventional remediation
technologies for heavy metal contaminated sites are usually not applicable because
of the high cost associated with chemicals and energy requirements, as well as the
long treatment time to remediate large areas. In this study, the use of phytocapping
for the remediation of mine tailing deposits and abandoned mine areas is reviewed.
Phytocapping is cost effective, environmentally friendly and has multifunctional role
against various problems of mine tailings: it provides erosion control, landscape
rehabilitation, enhances the soil properties for further colonization of other more
demanding vegetal species, reduces the leachability of metals downwards the groundwater,
and favors the immobilization of metals forming less bioavailable species. The most
critical step in phytocapping is the developing of the first vegetative cover because
of the biotoxicity of the mine soil and mine tailings. Several amendment materials
can be used to ameliorate soil conditions creating a favorable environment for the
rooting of plants, as well as serving as a source of nutrients. Local plant species
with fast growing are preferable because their adaptation to the soil and climate
conditions favors their self-propagation.