Affordable Access

Publisher Website

Deconvolution of trace element (As, Cr, Mo, Th, U) sources and pathways to surface waters of a gold mining-influenced watershed

The Science of The Total Environment
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2008.11.012
  • Isle River
  • Arsenic
  • Sulfide Oxidation
  • Mixing Model
  • Geochemical Background
  • Chemistry
  • Earth Science
  • Geography


Abstract The Upper Isle River (SW France) drains the second most productive gold-mining district of France. A high resolution survey during one hydrological year of As, Cl −, Cr, Fe, Mn, Mo, SO 4 2−, Th and U dissolved concentrations in surface water aimed to better understand pathways of trace element export to the river system downstream from the mining district. Dissolved concentrations of As (up to 35 000 ng/L) and Mo (up to 292 ng/L) were about 3-fold higher than the regional dissolved background and showed a negative logarithmic relation with discharge. Dissolved concentrations of Cr (up to 483 ng/L), Th (up to 48 ng/L) and U (up to 184 ng/L) increased with discharge. Geochemical relationships between molar ratios in surface water, geochemical background as well as rain- and groundwater data were combined. The contrasting behavior of distinct element groups was explained by a scenario involving three seasonal components: (i) The high flow component is poorly concentrated in As and Mo but highly concentrated in Cr, Th, U. This has been attributed to diffuse sources such as water–soil interactions, atmospheric inputs, bedrock and bed sediment weathering. Although this component probably also includes a contribution by weathering of sulfide veins, this signal is masked by dilution. (ii) One low flow component presents high SO 4 2−, Fe, As and Mo and moderate Cr, Th and U concentrations. This component has been attributed to point sources such as mine gallery effluents, mining waste weathering and groundwater inputs from natural and/or mining-induced sulfide oxidation in the ore deposit. (iii) A second low flow component showing high As plus Mo concentrations associated with very low SO 4 2−, Fe, Cr, Th and U concentrations, probably reflects trace element scavenging by ferric oxyhydroxide formation in the adjacent aquifer. This is supported by the decrease of Fe, Cr, Th and U in surface waters. Flux estimates suggest contrasting element-specific impacts on annual dissolved fluxes. Runoff may account for the major part of annual dissolved As, Mo, Th and U fluxes in the Upper Isle River. Inputs related to sulfide oxidation respectively contributed ∼ 30% and ∼ 24% to annual As and Mo fluxes. The formation of ferric oxyhydroxides strongly retained Cr, Th and U during the low flow, limiting their dissolved concentrations in surface waters. If this process may eventually decrease As mobility, its impact on dissolved As concentrations in surface water may be limited or/and counterbalanced by As release during sulfide oxidation.

There are no comments yet on this publication. Be the first to share your thoughts.