Streambed sediment and subsurface floodplain soil were sampled for elemental analyses from 15 locations in river basins of north-central Mongolia during August 2010. Our primary objective was to conduct a reconnaissance-level assessment of potential inputs of toxicologically important metals and metalloids to Lake Baikal, Russia, that might originate from mining and urban activities within tributaries of the Selenga River in Mongolia. Samples were collected in triplicate from all sites, then dried, and sieved to <2 mm for analysis by portable X-ray florescence spectroscopy and by inductively coupled plasma mass spectrometry after digestion with concentrated nitric and hydrochloric acids. Arsenic, copper, and mercury were greatly elevated in sediment and floodplain soil collected from tributary streams located near two major mining operations. Lead and zinc were moderately elevated in streambed sediment and in floodplain soil obtained from a small tributary in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, but those concentrations were considerably less than probable effects benchmarks. Historical and possibly present mining activities have led to considerable metal contamination in certain tributaries of the Orkhon River in north-central Mongolia; however, metals originating from those sources did not appear to be accumulating in sediments at our downstream-most sampling sites located near the border between Mongolia and Russia.
Additional publication details
Environmental survey in the Tuul and Orkhon River basins of north-central Mongolia, 2010: metals and other elements in streambed sediment and floodplain soi