Soil mesofauna as bioindicators to assess environmental disturbance at a platinum mine in South Africa

15 January 2014

South Africa is rich in mineral resources and is one of the leading raw material exporters in the world. Mining is essential for economic development, but also has detrimental environmental consequences in the form of chemical waste products which are being dumped as tailings material. The aim of this study was to establish whether mesofauna could be utilized to assess the influence of the tailings disposal facility on the surrounding soil environment. The sampled soil was chemically analyzed and the extracted mesofauna identified. High metal concentrations on the tailings dam (Cu, Cr and Ni), apparently had the greatest influence on the soil mesofauna. Only a few mite species were abundant at the two sites on the tailings dam, representing the prostigmatic-, cryptostigmatic- and the mesostigmatic-taxa. Metal pollution is evident in the sites on the tailings dam facility and the number of species generally increased towards the more natural environment.