A fundamental step to evaluate the biogeochemical and eco-toxicological significance of Hg dispersion in the environment is to determine speciation of Hg in solid matrices. In this study, several analytical techniques such as scanning electron microscopy-energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), sequential chemical extractions (SCEs), and X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XANES) were used to identify Hg compounds and Hg speciation in samples collected from the Mt. Amiata Hg mining district, southern Tuscany, Italy. Different geological materials, such as mine waste calcine (retorted ore), soil, stream sediment, and stream water suspended particulate matter were analyzed. Results show that the samples were generally composed of highly insoluble Hg compounds such as sulphides (HgS, cinnabar and metacinnabar), and more soluble Hg halides such as those associated with the mosesite group. Other moderately soluble Hg compounds, HgCl2, HgO and Hg0, were also identified in stream sediments draining the mining area. The presence of these minerals suggests active and continuous runoff of soluble Hg compounds from calcines, where such Hg compounds form during retorting, or later in secondary processes. Specifically, we suggest that, due to the proximity of Hg mines to the urban center of Abbadia San Salvatore, the influence of other anthropogenic activities was a key factor for Hg speciation, resulting in the formation of unusual Hg-minerals such as mosesite.
Additional publication details
Mercury speciation in the Mt. Amiata mining district (Italy): interplay between urban activities and mercury contamination
Central Mineral and Environmental Resources Science Center