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The environmental impact of gold mines: pollution by heavy metals

1Department of Mechanical & Industrial Engineering, College of Engineering, Sultan Qaboos University, Al Khoudh, Sultanate of Oman

2College of Engineering, Sultan Qaboos University, Al Khoudh, Sultanate of Oman

© 2012 Versita Warsaw. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License. (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0)

Citation Information: Open Engineering. Volume 2, Issue 2, Pages 304–313, ISSN (Online) 2391-5439, DOI: 10.2478/s13531-011-0052-3, April 2012

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The gold mining plant of Oman was studied to assess the contribution of gold mining on the degree of heavy metals into different environmental media. Samples were collected from the gold mining plant area in tailings, stream waters, soils and crop plants. The collected samples were analyzed for 13 heavy metals including vanadium (V), chromium (Cr), manganese (Mn), nickel (Ni), copper (Cu), cadmium (Cd), cobalt (Co), lead (Pb), zinc (Zn), aluminium (Al), strontium (Sr), iron (Fe) and barium (Ba). The water in the acid evaporation pond showed a high concentration of Fe as well as residual quantities of Zn, V, and Al, whereas water from the citizens well showed concentrations of Al above those of Omani and WHO standards. The desert plant species growing closed to the gold pit indicated high concentrations of heavy metals (Mn, Al, Ni, Fe, Cr, and V), while the similar plant species used as a control indicated lesser concentrations of all heavy metals. The surface water (blue) indicated very high concentrations of copper and significant concentrations of Mn, Ni, Al, Fe, Zn, lead, Co and Cd. The results revealed that some of the toxic metals absorbed by plants indicated significant metal immobilization.

Keywords: Environment; Gold mining; Heavy metals; Pollution; Tailings; Soil; Water

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