Mercury from mineral deposits and potential environmental impact
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Mercury deposits are globally distributed in 26 mercury mineral belts. Three types of mercury deposits occur in these belts: silica–carbonate, hot-spring, and Almaden. Mercury is also produced as a by-product from several types of gold–silver and massive sulfide deposits, which account for 5% of the world's production. Other types of mineral deposits can be enriched in mercury and mercury phases present are dependent on deposit type. During processing of mercury ores, secondary mercury phases form and accumulate in mine wastes. These phases are more soluble than cinnabar, the primary ore mineral, and cause mercury deposits to impact the environment more so than other types of ore deposits enriched in mercury. Release and transport of mercury from mine wastes occur primarily as mercury-enriched particles and colloids. Production from mercury deposits has decreased because of environmental concerns, but by-product production from other mercury-enriched mineral deposits remains important.
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