Ecological modelling of a wetland for phytoremediating Cu, Zn and Mn in a gold–copper mine site using Typha domingensis (Poales: Typhaceae) near Orange, NSW, Australia

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An artificial wetland was computationally modelled using STELLA®, a graphical programming tool for an Au-Cu mine site in Central-west NSW, the aim of which was to offer a predictive analysis of a proposed wetland for Cu, Zn and Mn removal using Typha domingensis as the agent. The model considers the important factors that impact phytoremediation of Cu, Zn and Mn. Simulations were performed to optimise the area of the wetland; concentration of Cu, Zn and Mn released from mine (AMD); and flow rates of water for maximum absorption of the metals. A scenario analysis indicates that at AMD = 0.75mg/L for Cu, Zn and Mn, 12.5, 8.6, and 357.9 kg of Cu, Zn and Mn, respectively, will be assimilated by the wetland in 35 years, which would be equivalent to 61 mg of Cu/kg, 70 mg of Zn/kg and 2,886 mg of Mn/kg of T. domingensis, respectively. However, should Cu, Zn and Mn in AMD increase to 3 mg/L, then 18.6 kg of Cu and 11.8 kg of Zn, respectively, will be assimilated in 35 years, whereas no substantial increase in absorption for Mn would occur. This indicates that 91 mg of Cu, 96 mg of Zn and 2917 mg of Mn will be assimilated for every kg of T. domingensis in the wetland. The best option for Cu storage would be to construct a wetland of 50,000 m2 area (AMD = 0.367 mg/L of Cu), which would capture 14.1 kg of Cu in 43 years, eventually releasing only 3.9 kg of Cu downstream. Simulations performed for a WA of 30,000 m2 indicate that for AMD = 0.367 mg/L of Zn, the wetland captures 6.2 kg, releasing only 3.5 kg downstream after 43 years; the concentration of Zn in the leachate would be 10.2 kg, making this the most efficient wetland amongst the options considered for phytoremediating Zn. This work will help mine managers and environmental researchers in developing an effective environmental management plan by focusing on phytoremediation, with a view at extracting Cu, Zn and Mn from the contaminated sites.

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