Mercury Pollution in Amapá, Brazil: Mercury Amalgamation in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining or Land-Cover and Land-Use Changes?

Rebecca Adler Miserendino, Jean Remy Davée Guimarães, Gary Schudel, Sanghamitra Ghosh, José Marcus Godoy, Ellen Silbergeld, Peter Sj Lees, Bridget A. Bergquist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Mercury (Hg) poses a public health burden in the Amazon and worldwide. Although usually attributed to Hg used in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), the primary source of elevated Hg in Amazonian aquatic ecosystems is contested since there have not been tools to differentiate between Hg from ASGM and Hg from other sources such as increased soil erosion associated with land-cover and land-use change. To directly assess Hg contamination from ASGM, stable Hg isotope analyses were applied to sediment cores, surface sediments, and soils from two aquatic ecosystems in Amapá, Brazil, one downstream of ASGM activities and one isolated from ASGM. Downstream of the ASGM sites, the Hg isotope data is consistent with elevated Hg coming dominantly from increased erosion of soils and not from Hg used during gold extraction. Although these two sources represent different pathways of contamination to downstream ecosystems, ASGM may contribute to both land-cover and land-use change and local contamination of soils. Accordingly, these findings demonstrate that in some regions of the Amazon effective Hg mitigation strategies need to address land-use practices in addition to ASGM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)441-450
Number of pages10
JournalACS Earth and Space Chemistry
Volume2
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 17 2018

Keywords

  • Amazon
  • Artisanal gold mining
  • deforestation
  • gold mining
  • mercury
  • mercury isotopes
  • soil erosion
  • trace metal geochemistry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science
  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Space and Planetary Science

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