Author(s): Lacerda LD, de Souza M, Ribeiro MG
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Abstract This study presents the spatial distribution, degree of contamination and storage capacity of Hg in surface forest and pasture soils from Alta Floresta, Southern Amazon, a significant gold mining site from 1980 to 1996. During that period, average annual gold production was about 6.5 tons, with an estimated Hg annual emission to the environment of about 8.8 tons, 60-80\% of it being emitted to the atmosphere. Mercury sources to the region are mining sites and gold-dealer shops at the city of Alta Floresta, where gold is smelted and commercialized. Mercury concentrations in forest soils (15-248 ng g(-1), average=61.9 ng g(-1)) were 1.5-3.0 times higher than in pasture soils (10-74 ng g(-1), average=33.8 ng g(-1)), suggesting strong re-mobilization after deforestation. Highest Hg concentrations were found within a distance of 20-30 km from mining sites in both soil types. The influence of the refining operations within the city of Alta Floresta, however, was less clear. Somewhat higher concentrations were observed only within a 5 km radius from the city center where gold-dealer shops are located. Wind direction controls the spatial distribution of Hg. Background concentrations (15-50 ng g(-1)) were generally found at the outer perimeter of the sampling grid, about 40 km from sources. This suggests that Hg released from mining and refining activities undergoes rapid deposition. Estimated cumulative Hg burdens for the first 10 cm of soil averaged 8.3 mg m(-2) and 4.9 mg m(-2), for forest and pasture soils respectively and compare well with ultisols and hydromorphic oxisols, but were lower than those found in yellow-red and yellow latosols and podsols from other Amazonian areas. Our results show that changing land use in the Amazon is a strong re-mobilizing agent of Hg deposited on soils from the atmosphere.
This article was published in Environ Pollut
and referenced in Biochemistry & Analytical Biochemistry