Measurement of surface mercury fluxes at active industrial gold mines in Nevada (USA)

C. S. Eckley, M. Gustin*, F. Marsik, M. B. Miller

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) may be naturally associated with the rock units hosting precious and base metal deposits. Active gold mines are known to have point source releases of Hg associated with ore processing facilities. The nonpoint source release of Hg to the air from the large area (hundreds to thousands of hectares) of disturbed and processed material at industrial open pit gold mines has not been quantified. This paper describes the field data collected as part of a project focused on estimating nonpoint source emissions of Hg from two active mines in Nevada, USA. In situ Hg flux data were collected on diel and seasonal time steps using a dynamic flux chamber from representative mine surfaces. Hg fluxes ranged from <1500ngm-2day-1 for waste rock piles (0.6-3.5μgg-1) to 684,000ngm-2day-1 for tailings (2.8-58μgg-1). Releases were positively correlated with material Hg concentrations, surface grain size, and moisture content. Highest Hg releases occurred from materials under active cyanide leaching and from tailings impoundments containing processed high-grade ore. Data collected indicate that as mine sites are reclaimed and material disturbance ceases, emissions will decline. Additionally local cycling of atmospheric Hg (deposition and re-emission) was found to occur.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)514-522
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume409
Issue number3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • atmospheric mercury
  • mercury flux
  • nonpoint source
  • open pit gold mining

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