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Mercury concentrations in suspended particulate matter, water and mud-sediment up and downstream from old and recent gold mining sites in French Guiana

Abstract : Although the use of mercury (Hg) for gold mining has been officially banned in French Guiana since 2006, there are still reasons to be wary of its occurrence in river water and its impact on local populations. In fact, gold-mining generates intense soil erosion and high turbidity in the rivers downstream from mining sites. This contributes to Hg pollution and dissemination both via the remobilization of Hg naturally present in the soils and the release of metallic Hg from the gold recovery process. In the affected rivers, Hg transport and speciation is mainly controlled by the suspended particulate matter (SPM) rather than remaining dissolved. The aim of this study is to understand and quantify the fate of this SPM-associated Hg along the Boulanger River affected by old and new gold mining activities. Furthermore we provide recent data (2012) essential to evaluate the efficiency of legal gold mining companies in restoring and re-planting exploited zones to control erosion, river turbidity and SPM transport. Inorganic Hg(II), monomethylmercury (MMHg) and turbidity measurements were measured in water, SPM and mud-sediment collected along the Boulanger River, from the spring down to its confluence with the Orapu River. The intensity of gold-mining in this area has been up and down through the last century and presents contrasting conditions with old and recently exploited areas. Dissolved Hg (HgD) levels were low (1-2 ng.L-1) and consistent with previous data known for the Amazonian area. Dissolved MMHg concentrations represented up to 8% of HgD which is higher than previous results (around 2%). Some relationships occurred between Hg concentrations in mud-sediment and turbidity values which both decreased downstream from the mining sites, then stabilized at 4-5 km further down. Hg contents in the mud-sediment show the impact of old and new gold mining practices. These results show that even though Hg use was banned from French Guiana 6 years ago, present gold mining practices still release significant amounts of Hg into the rivers. Survey intensification in French Guiana river systems should provide a more complete data set, essential to change gold mining practices and to reduce SPM and Hg contamination of the aquatic environment.
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Contributeur : Jennifer Hellal Connectez-vous pour contacter le contributeur
Soumis le : lundi 14 mars 2016 - 21:37:20
Dernière modification le : mardi 6 décembre 2022 - 10:36:09


  • HAL Id : hal-01288337, version 1



Jennifer Hellal, Manuel Moisan, Laurent Lanceleur, Régis Vigouroux, Jörg Schäfer, et al.. Mercury concentrations in suspended particulate matter, water and mud-sediment up and downstream from old and recent gold mining sites in French Guiana. SETAC Europe 26th Annual Meeting, May 2016, Nantes, France. ⟨hal-01288337⟩



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