1Natural Resources and Environmental Center, Mining Engineering and Geo-resources Department of IST, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal, Av. Rovisco Pais 1049-001, Lisbon, Portugal
2Technical University of Oruro, Bolivia
3Nottingham Centre for Geomechanics, Department of Civil Engineering, Nottingham University, Nottingham, UK
Hydrographically Bolivian Poopó Lake is located in the basin of Desaguadero River and it has over a dozen main tributary rivers and other smaller rivers with lower flow. The mine water discharge from the abandoned and current mining activities polluted these rivers by carrying heavy metals, dissolved and suspended solids which in turn polluted the Poopó Lake which is considered as an important Lake in this area. The present paper deals with the environmental hazards associated with the mining activities with an objective of determining the environmental quality of the Poopó Lake and its tributary rivers, based on physical-chemical analysis of superficial water and sediment samples. The results of the research show that the Poopó Lake water quality can be classified as highly saline, containing high concentration of dissolved or suspended solid, as well arsenic, lead, cadmium, zinc and other heavy metals exceeding the permissible limits of pollutants. Desaguadero River contributed to the Poopó Lake pollution by 70% arsenic, 64% lead, 4.27% zinc and 2.18% cadmium. Other important pollution contributors are Antequera River by 57 % zinc, 32.9 % cadmium and 0.66% lead, and Huanuni River by 61.2% cadmium, 2.23% lead and 34.3% zinc. Vinto foundry, Kori kollo mine and mainly San José mine polluted the Poopó Lake by arsenic and lead through Desaguadero River. Bolivar and Huanuni mines polluted the Poopó Lake by cadmium and zinc through Antequera and Huanuni Rivers. Additionally the mining activities continue to pollute the Poopó Lake by dissolved and suspended solids transporting through Desaguadero, Antequera and Huanuni rivers.