Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Leaching of copper and nickel in soil-water systems contaminated by bauxite residue (red mud) from Ajka, Hungary: the importance of soil organic matter

Lockwood, Cindy L.; Stewart, Douglas I.; Mortimer, Robert J. G.; Mayes, Will; Jarvis, Adam P.; Gruiz, Katalin; Burke, Ian T.


Cindy L. Lockwood

Douglas I. Stewart

Robert J. G. Mortimer

Adam P. Jarvis

Katalin Gruiz

Ian T. Burke


Red mud is a highly alkaline (pH >12) waste product from bauxite ore processing. The red mud spill at Ajka, Hungary, in 2010 released 1 million m3 of caustic red mud into the surrounding area with devastating results. Aerobic and anaerobic batch experiments and solid phase extraction techniques were used to assess the impact of red mud addition on the mobility of Cu and Ni in soils from near the Ajka spill site. Red mud addition increases aqueous dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations due to soil alkalisation, and this led to increased mobility of Cu and Ni complexed to organic matter. With Ajka soils, more Cu was mobilised by contact with red mud than Ni, despite a higher overall Ni concentration in the solid phase. This is most probably because Cu has a higher affinity to form complexes with organic matter than Ni. In aerobic experiments, contact with the atmosphere reduced soil pH via carbonation reactions, and this reduced organic matter dissolution and thereby lowered Cu/Ni mobility. These data show that the mixing of red mud into organic rich soils is an area of concern, as there is a potential to mobilise Cu and Ni as organically bound complexes, via soil alkalisation. This could be especially problematic in locations where anaerobic conditions can prevail, such as wetland areas contaminated by the spill.


Lockwood, C. L., Stewart, D. I., Mortimer, R. J. G., Mayes, W., Jarvis, A. P., Gruiz, K., & Burke, I. T. (2015). Leaching of copper and nickel in soil-water systems contaminated by bauxite residue (red mud) from Ajka, Hungary: the importance of soil organic matter. Environmental science and pollution research, 22(14), 10800-10810.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 24, 2015
Online Publication Date Mar 12, 2015
Publication Date 2015-07
Deposit Date Nov 10, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Environmental science and pollution research
Print ISSN 0944-1344
Electronic ISSN 1614-7499
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Issue 14
Pages 10800-10810
Keywords Kolontár, Ajka, Red mud, Nickel, Copper, DOC, Soil organic matter, Solid phase extraction
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information The final publication is available at Springer via


Published article (907 Kb)

Copyright Statement
© The author(s) 2015. This article is published with open access at

You might also like

Downloadable Citations