Assessing the Environmental Impact of Artisanal Gold Mining Activities on the Waters and Sediments Around Meli, Northwestern Tigray, Ethiopia
The paper presents the environmental impact of artisanal gold mining activities on the waters and sediments around Meli, northwestern Tigray, Ethiopia. Stream sediment, water, and tailing samples were collected in the dry season in January of 2019 and analyzed for heavy metals Cu, Zn, Pb, and As. The physicochemical parameters (pH, EC, major cations, and anions) of a few water samples were also measured. Flame atomic absorption spectrometry was used to determine the level of the metals in stream sediments. The results show that tailing has the highest concentration of metals followed by the stream sediments. The least concentrations are recorded in water for all metals. Pb has the highest mean concentration of all heavy metals in stream sediments, waters, and tailing samples. The mean Geo-accumulation Index (Igeo) and Contamination Factor (CF) suggest that the sediment represents uncontaminated to moderately contaminated classes. Concentrations of Cu and Zn in the water samples are generally within the maximum allowable concentration of the WHO, whereas concentrations of Pb and As are above the limit. Metal Index for surface and groundwater suggests that the area is polluted with heavy metals Pb and As. The main sources of the metals are assumed to be the sulfide ores facilitated by natural weathering processes and artisanal mining activities like excavations, crushing, grinding, and amalgamation processes. The Gibbs and Durov plots show that major hydrogeochemical processes controlling the water chemistry are water-rock interactions with considerable mixing of water types.
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