Department of Geology, Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran
Heavy metal concentration in the soils and sediments has increased worldwide during the last century due to the mining, smelting, and industrial activities. The Forumad chromite deposit is located in the Sabzevar ophiolitic complex (SOC), with a long history of mining activities, yet very little is known about the heavy metal contamination in its surrounding environment. In this research work, the soil pollution by heavy metals was investigated with respect to the geochemical, statistical, and environmental indicators over the chromite mine in Forumad. The concentrations of heavy metals were analyzed, and the results obtained showed that the mean concentrations of Cr (5837.5 ppm) and Ni (570.7 ppm) in the nearby soils and sediments were significantly high. On the other hand, the mean concentrations of the other heavy metals present such as As, Cd, Co, Cu, Pb, and V were close to the geological background values. The multivariate statistical analyses (Pearson coefficient analysis, Cluster analysis, and principal component analysis) were used to understand the various anthropogenic and geological (lithogenic) sources. Our geochemical and environmental assessments suggested that Cr, Ni, Co, and V had similar properties, and their presence in the soils was mainly from the ultramafic rocks and chromite deposits. However, the calculated enrichment factors for Cr and Ni were more than 10, suggesting their anthropogenic sources due to the mining activities. The significant Cr and Ni contaminations in the Forumad nearby soils indicated that the status of heavy metal contaminations of the area should receive further considerations in the metal mine areas throughout SOC.