Soil contaminants are potentially a major threat to human and ecosystem health and sustainable production of food and energy where mineral processing wastes are discharged into the environment. In extreme conditions, metal concentrations in wastes often exceed even the metal tolerance thresholds of metallophytes (metal-tolerant plants) and sites remain barren with high risks of contaminant leaching and dispersion into the environment via erosion. A novel soil amendment based on micron-size thiol functional cross-linked acrylamide polymer hydrogel particles (X3) binds toxic soluble metals irreversibly and significantly reduces their concentrations in the soil solution to below the phytotoxicity thresholds. X3 mixed into the top 50. mm of phytotoxic mine waste materials in pots in glasshouse conditions reduced total soluble concentrations of toxic contaminants by 90.3-98.7 in waste rock, and 88.6-96.4 in tailings immediately after application. After 61 days, quality of unamended bottom layer of X3-treated pots was also significantly improved in both wastes. Combination of X3 and metallophytes was more efficient at improving soil solution quality than X3 alone. Addition of X3 to substrates increased substrate water retention and water availability to plants by up to 108 and 98 for waste rock and tailings respectively. Soil quality improvement by X3 allowed successful early establishment of the native metallophyte grass Astrebla lappacea on both wastes where plants failed to establish otherwise. ? 2013 Elsevier B.V.