Document Type : Original Research Paper


Department of Petroleum Engineering and Geology, Mashhad Branch, Islamic Azad University, Mashhad, Iran


In this work, the results of nearly 1400 stream sediment sample analysis are processed to better understand environmental pollution caused by mining activities in Eastern Iran. The stream sediment samples are analyzed for As, Sb, Fe, Cr, Ni, Co, Cu, Zn, Pb, Sr, and Hg. The mean concentration of these elements follows the decreasing order of Fe > Sr > Zn > Cr > Cu > Ni > Co > Pb > As > Sb > Hg. Based on the assessment of pollution, extremely severe enrichment factor Co (EF > 25), and high enrichment of Sb, Hg, Cr, and Sr (EF > 10) are detected. Specifically, Cr and Ni in southern stream sediments show significantly elevated concentrations compared to the others. The range of the contamination factor varies from CF < 1 to CF > 6 for most elements. Geo-accumulation index shows high contamination levels by Cr and Co and high to severe contamination by Sb. The risk indices are low for all elements except for As and Co in the eastern part of the studied area. Principal component analysis, Spearman correlation coefficient, and cluster analysis are used to demonstrate similarities and differences between the elements. Pollution indices show that contaminations in some samples are the consequence of gold mineralization. The high correlation of Cu, Zn, and Sb is due to the sulfide mineralization of gold. The high correlation of Cr and Ni corresponds to ultramafic rocks and ophiolitic series. This study focuses on the impact of mining activities, even at early stages on the dispersion of some heavy metals in stream sediments. Based on the results presented here, while most contamination in the target area is rooted in geochemical and mineralization processes, mining activity also contributes to soil pollution for certain elements such as Cu and Zn. The most affected stream sediments are those within the vicinity of mining areas and attention should be paid to potential risks to the environment particularly during gold mining activities.  


  • [1]. Tamim, U., Khan, R., Jolly, Y.N., Fatema, K., Das, S., Naher, K., Islam, M.A., Islam, S.M.A., and Hossain, S.M. (2016). Elemental distribution of elements in urban river sediments near an industrial effluent source. Chemosphere 155:509–518.

    [2]. Corredor, J.A., Pérez, E.H., Figueroa, R., and Casas, A.F. (2021). Water quality of streams associated with artisanal gold mining. Suárez. Department of Cauca, Colombia, Heliyon 7 (6) e07047.

    [3]. Du Plessis, D.M. and Curtis, C.J. (2021). Trace element contaminants associated with historic gold mining in sediments of dams and pans across Benoni, South Africa. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment. 193 (3):1-7.

    [4]. Dan-Badjo, A.T., Ibrahim, O.Z., Guéro, Y., Morel, J.L., Feidt, C., and Echevarria, G. (2019). Impacts of artisanal gold mining on soil, water and plant contamination by trace elements at Komabangou, Western Niger. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 205:106328.

    • [5]. Abdul Gafur, N.A., Sakakibara, M., Sano, S., and Sera, K. (2018). A case study of heavy metal pollution in water of Bone River by Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mine Activities in Eastern Part of Gorontalo, Indonesia. Water. 10 (11):
    • [6]. Dorleku, M.K., Nukpezah, D., andCarboo, D. (2018). Effects of small-scale gold mining on heavy metal levels in groundwater in the Lower Pra Basin of Ghana. Applied Water Science. 8 (5):
    • [7]. Hogarh, J.N., Adu-Gyamfi, E., Nukpezah, D., Akoto, O., and Adu-Kumi, S. (2016). Contamination from mercury and other heavy metals in a mining district in Ghana: discerning recent trends from sediment core analysis. Environmental Systems Research. 5 (1): 1-15.
    • [8]. Mensah, A.K., Mahiri, I.O., Owusu, O., Mireku, O.D., Wireko, I., and Kissi, E.A. (2015). Environmental impacts of mining: a study of mining communities in Ghana. Applied Ecology and Environmental Sciences. 3 (3): 81-94.
    • [9]. Abdul-Wahab, S. and Marikar, F. (2012). The environmental impact of gold mines: pollution by heavy metals. Open Engineering. 2 (2): 304-313.

    [10]. Sako, A., Semdé, S., and Wenmenga, U. (2018). Geochemical evaluation of soil, surface water and groundwater around the Tongon gold mining area, northern Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa. Journal of African Earth Sciences. 145: 297-316.

    • [11]. Kinimo, K.C., Yao, K.M., Marcotte, S., and Trokourey, A. (2018). Distribution trends and ecological risks of arsenic and trace metals in wetland sediments around gold mining activities in central-southern and southeastern Côte d'Ivoire. Journal of Geochemical Exploration 190: 265-80.

    [12]. Gerson, J.R., Driscoll, C.T., Hsu-Kim, H., Bernhardt, E.S., and Chadwick, O. (2018). Senegalese artisanal gold mining leads to elevated total mercury and methylmercury concentrations in soils, sediments, and rivers. Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene 1:6-11.

    [13]. Vural, A. (2015). Contamination assessment of heavy metals associated with an alteration area: Demirören Gumushane, NE Turkey. Journal of the Geological Society of India. 86 (2):215-222.

    [14]. Vural, A. (2015). Assessment of metal pollution associated with an alteration area: Old Gümüşhane, NE Black Sea. Environmental Science and Pollution Research. 22 (5):3219-3228.

    [15]. Vural, A. and Safari, S. (2022). Phytoremediation ability of Helichrysum arenarium plant for Au and Ag: case study at Demirören village (Gümüşhane, Turkey). Gold Bulletin, 12:1-8.

    [16]. Samiee, S., Karimpour, M.H., Ghaderi, M., Shahri, M.R., Klöetzli, U., and Santos, J.F. (2016). Petrogenesis of subvolcanic rocks from the Khunik prospecting area, south of Birjand, Iran: Geochemical, Sr–Nd isotopic and U–Pb zircon constraints. Journal of Asian Earth Sciences 115:170-182.

    [17]. Müller, G. (1979). Schwermetalle in den sediments des Rheins—Veranderungen Seitte. Umschau Wissensch Tech 79:778–783.

    [18]. Müller, G. (1969). Index of geoaccumulation in sediments of the Rhine River. Geojournal 2:108–118.

    [19]. Geological survey of Iran (GSI) (2000). Geochemical exploration reports of Mokhtaran and Sarchah shur sheets.

    [20]. Zafari moghadam, M. (2017). Evaluate the Environmental Impact of Khunik Gold deposit on Soils (Southwestern Birjand). MSc thesis. Islamic Azad University Mashhad Branch. 156 p.

    [21]. Abdi, M. (2015). Study of geology, alteration, mineralization, geochemistry, genesis and origin of fluids in Kuh-e-Shah Cu-Au mineralization, South Khorasan. Ph.D. Dissertation. Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. 519 p.

    [22]. Savabi, Gh. (2010). Investigation on groundwater pollution in Mokhtaran plain (north of Kuh-Shah, south of Birjand) based on geochemistry of the region. MSc thesis. Shahrood University of Technology, 186 p.

     [23]. Schertzinger, G., Ruchter, N., and Sures, B. (2018). Metal accumulation in sediments and amphipods downstream of combined sewer overflows. Science of the Total Environment 616-617: 1199-1207.

    [24]. Loska, K., Chebual, J., Pleczar, J., Wiechla, D., and Kwapulinski, J. (1995). Use of environment and contamination factors togheder with geoaccmulation indexes to elevate the content of Cd, Cu and Ni in the Rybink water reservoir in Poland. Water, Air and Soil pollution. 93: 347-365.

    [25]. Hakanson, L. (1980). An ecological risk index for aquatic pollution control: a sedimentological approach. Water Res. 14: 975–1001.

    • [26]. Kowalska, J.B., Mazurek, R., Gasiorek, M., and Zaleski, T. (2018). Pollution indices as useful tools for the comprehensive evaluation of the degree of soil contamination–A review. Environmental Geochemistry and Health 40(6):2395–2420.

    [27]. Emmerson, R.H.C., O'Reilly-Wiese, S.B., Macleod, C.L., and Lester, J.N. (1997). A multivariate assessment of metal distribution in intertidal sediments of the Blackwater Estuary, UK. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 34: 960–968.

    [28]. Daskalakis, K.D. and O’Connor, T.P. (1995). Normalization and elemental sediment contamination in the Coastal United States. Environmental Science & Technology. 29 (2):470–477.

    [29]. Turekian, K.K. and Wedepohl, K.H. (1961). Distribution of the elements in major units of the, Earth. Geological Society of America Bulletin 72:175-192.

    [30]. Guo, Y., Huang, C., Pang, J., Zha, X., Li, X., and Zhang, Y. (2014). Concentration of heavy metals in the modern flood slackwater deposits along the upper Hanjiang River valley, China, Catena 116: 123-31.

    [31]. Wang, N., Wang, A., Kong, L., and He, M. (2018). Calculation and application of Sb toxicity coefficient for potential ecological risk assessment. Science of the Total Environment 610:167-174.

    [32]. Li, Y., Yu, Z.M., and Song, X.X. (2006). Application of Principal Component Analysis (PCA) for the Estimation of Source of Heavy Metal Contamination in Marine Sediments. Environmental Sciences 27(1):137-141.

    [33]. Vural, A. (2015) Biogeochemical characteristics of Rosa canina grown in hydrothermally contaminated soils of the Gümüşhane province, Northeast Turkey. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 187(8):1-21.

    [34]. Thuong, N.T., Yoneda, M., Ikegami, M., and Takakura, M. (2013). Source discrimination of heavy metals in sediment and water of To Lich River in Hanoi City using multivariate statistical approaches. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 185(10):8065-8075.

    [35]. Kabata-Pendias, A. and Mukherjee, A.B. (2007). Trace elements from soil to human, Springer Science & Business Media, 550 P.

    [36]. Kabata-Pendias, A. (2010). Trace elements in soils and plants, 4th Ed., Taylor & Francis Group, 548 P.

    [37]. Salam, M.A., Alam, M.A., Paul, S.I., Islam, F., Shaha, D.C., Rahman, M.M., Khan, M.A.R., Rahman, M.M., Islam, A.K.M.A., Ahamed, T., Rahman, G.K.M.M., Miah, M.G., Akanda, A.M., and Islam, T. (2021). Assessment of Heavy Metals in the Sediments of Chalan Beel Wetland Area in Bangladesh. Processes 9:410.

    [38]. Yousefi, S., Doulati Ardejani, F., Ziaii, M., and Karamoozian, M. (2015). The speciation of cobalt and nickel at mine waste dump using improved correlation analysis: a case study of Sarcheshmeh copper mine. Environment, development and sustainability. 17 (5):1065-1084.

    [39]. Yousefi, S., Doulati Ardejani, F., Ziaii, M., Abedi, A., and Esmaeil zadeh, E. (2015). Investigating the origin and geochemical behaviour of toxic elements within the waste dumps using statistical analyses: a case study at waste dumps of Sarcheshmeh copper mine, SE of Iran. Environmental Earth Sciences. 73 (4):1555-1572.

    [40]. Kermani, M. (2013) Geomorphology and sedimentology of the southern part of Mukhtaran Plain, South Khorasan. MsC Thesis. Birjand University.

    [41]. Eftekharnezhad, J. and Stocklin, J. (1975). Geological map of Sarchah shur, 100000 series sheet 7754, Geological survey of Iran.

    [42]. Mousavi, S.P., Mokhtari, M.A.A., Khosravi, Y., Rafiee, A., and Hoseinzade, R. (2018). Investigation of Environmental Pollution in Stream Sediments for Heavy Metals at Zarshuran- Aghdarreh Area (North of Takab, Iran). Journal of Water and Soil Science. 22 (2):127-141.

    [43]. Movahed aval, H. and Emami, M. (1978). Geological map of Mokhtaran, 1:100000 series sheet 7854, Geological survey of Iran.

    [44]. Movahhed, M. and Yousefi, M. (2019). Assessment of Contaminations Caused by Mining Activities Using Stream Sediment Geochemical Studies. Journal of Mineral Resources Engineering 4(3):1-14.

    [45]. Salavati-Nik, S., Saadat, S., and Alameh, M. (2020). Environmental Study of the Distribution of Heavy Metals Contamination in Soils of Sheshtamad Area (Northeastern Iran). Water and Soil 34 (3):721-735. doi: 10.22067/jsw.v34i3.85308.

    [46]. Zaheri, N., Khosravi, Y., Mokhtari, M., and Zamani, A. (2019). Distribution pattern of the heavy metals in stream sediments of the Baycheh-Bagh area, northwest of Zanjan. Journal of Stratigraphy and Sedimentology Researches 35(2):135-150. doi: 10.22108/jssr.2019.115696.1085.