Remediation alternatives for an abandoned gold mine contaminated with mercury in Brazil / Alternativas para descontaminação de mina de ouro abandonada contaminada com mercúrio no Brasil

José Fernando Miranda, Hernani Mota de Lima, Adilson Curi, José Aurélio Medeiros da Luz, Elton Destro

Abstract


Heavy metal contamination of soils has generated two major problems, namely, loss of land value and health risk for people near contaminated sites. Studies on soil remediation are typically conducted on a pilot scale under very controlled conditions. This is a misleading approach, once the complexity of the actual biogeochemical soil conditions may causes inefficiency in full scale real-world application. In addition, environmental impacts of remediation practices themselves are often ignored, which may make them unfeasible. In 2002, an occurrence of mercury in an abandoned old gold mine was detected in a rural area of Descoberto, Brazil. In 2014, the State Public Prosecutor required from the responsible State Environment Agency, a remediation project to the area. This study compares alternatives for remediation of the contaminated area. Also a historical approach on mercury amalgamation in gold mining in the region, in order to estimate the amount of mercury remaining in the site. The geochemical characterization of the contaminated area was performed to describe the contamination process.  The results were compared with the remediation proposal advocated by the Brazilian Ministry Public, and some alternatives for decontamination of the area were studied. The electrokinetic method has displayed the lowest overall unit cost, between US$ 120.00/t and US$ 260.00/t. The residual Hg concentration after four cycles of the electrokinetic technique was estimated at 1.28 mg (Hg)/kg (soil), slightly higher than the intervention value for agricultural soil, which is 1.20 mg (Hg)/kg (soil).


Keywords


Environmental impact, contaminated area, mercury, abandoned mine, cost-benefit analysis.

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.34117/bjdv8n5-167