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Waste rock and ore associated with Hg, precious and base metal mining, and their surrounding host rocks are typically enriched in mercury relative to natural background concentrations (<0.1 ??g Hg g-1). Mercury fluxes to the atmosphere from mineralized areas can range from background rates (0-15 ng m-2 h-1) to tens of thousands of ng m-2 h-1. Mercury enriched substrate constitutes a long-term source of mercury to the global atmospheric mercury pool. Mercury emissions from substrate are influenced by light, temperature, precipitation, and substrate mercury concentration, and occur during the day and night. Light-enhanced emissions are driven by two processes: desorption of elemental mercury accumulated at the soil:air interface, and photo reduction of mercury containing phases. To determine the need for and effectiveness of regulatory controls on short-lived anthropogenic point sources the contribution of mercury from geologic non-point sources to the atmospheric mercury pool needs to be quantified. The atmospheric mercury contribution from small areas of mining disturbance with relatively high mercury concentrations are, in general, less than that from surrounding large areas of low levels of mercury enrichment. In the arid to semi-arid west-ern United States volatilization is the primary means by which mercury is released from enriched sites.
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Atmospheric mercury emissions from mine wastes and surrounding geologically enriched terrains