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.
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