Characterization of the potential mercury contamination in the Apolobamba gold mining area, Bolivia

  1. Acosta Avilés, José Alberto
  2. Martínez Martínez, Silvia
  3. Faz Cano, Ángel
  4. Millán, R.
  5. Muñoz, M.A.
  6. Terán, T.
  7. Vera, R.
Spanish Journal of Soil Science: SJSS

ISSN: 2253-6574

Year of publication: 2011

Volume: 1

Issue: 1

Pages: 86-99

Type: Article

More publications in: Spanish Journal of Soil Science: SJSS


A large amount of Hg is used for gold extraction through the amalgamation process in the Apolobamba gold mining area located in the northwest part of La Paz, Bolivia. !is mining operation may produce a very serious impact on the ecosystems, as well as on the health of miners and inhabitants, mainly due to the primitive methods used in the gold recovery. !e objective of this work was to characterize the potential contamination of total Hg in soils, sediments, water, and plants in a mining area of Bolivia. Results showed that there was atmospheric deposition of Hg in the study area. Accumulation of this metal in the studied soils and sediments was one of the highest in the world, but Hg in aquatic solution was below the detection limit of the analytical method of the studied lakes and rivers. !e highest concentration of Hg was found in the river sediments of the Sunchullí- Viscachani (102 mg kg-1), and in the sediments of Sunchullí and Viscachani lakes (12.3 and 11.7 mg kg-1, respectively). !ese concentrations may pose a serious problem for aquatic life, related ecosystems and human health. !erefore, there is a need to study Hg availability and speciation in soils and sediments to better understand the cycling of Hg in the area.