Environmental Geology

, Volume 50, Issue 3, pp 339–352 | Cite as

Metal contamination of the environment by placer and primary gold mining in the Adola region of southern Ethiopia

  • Worash GetanehEmail author
  • Tamiru Alemayehu
Original Article


Primary and placer gold mining sites in southern Ethiopia were studied to see the contribution of mining to the accumulation of metals in different environmental media. Sediment, water and plant samples were analyzed for Al, Mn, Fe, As, Ni, Cr, Cu, Co, Pb, W, Sb, Mo, Zn and V. Water parameters (pH, Eh, TDS, anions and cations) were also measured. The sediment analyses results show that the most abundant metals are Ni (average 224.7 mg/kg), Cr (199 mg/kg), Cu (174.2 mg/kg), V (167.3 mg/kg), Zn (105.5 mg/kg), Pb (61.5 mg/kg) and As (59.7 mg/kg) in the primary gold mining sites while the placer sites show high concentration of V (average 301.2 mg/kg), Cr (260.4 mg/kg), Zn (179 mg/kg), Ni (113.4 mg/kg), Cu (46.7 mg/kg), As (32.2 mg/kg) and Co (31 mg/kg). The metals Cu, Ni, W, Cr, As and Pb in primary and Sb, W, Cr, Ni, Zn, As and Mo in placer gold mining sites have geoaccumulation indexes (I geo) from one to four indicating considerable accumulation of these metals. Waters from both primary and placer mining sites are near neutral to alkaline. Arsenic (average 92.8 μg/l), Ni (276.6 μg/l), Pb (18.7 μg/l), Sb (10.7 μg/l), Mn (1 mg/l), Fe (8.3 mg/l) and Al (23.8 mg/l) exceeded the guideline value for drinking water. Plants show high concentration of Cr (average 174.5 mg/kg), Ni (163.5 mg/kg), Zn (96 mg/kg) and W (48 mg/kg). Zinc, W, Mo, Ni and Cr show the maximum biological absorption coefficient (BAC) ranging 0.4–1.7, 0.1–104.6, 1.1–2.6, 0.2–1.6 and 0.2–3.6, respectively, and the results suggest bioaccumulation of these elements in plants. The minerals especially sulfides in the ore aggregate are the ultimate source of the metals. The release of the metals into the environmental media is facilitated (in addition to normal geologic processes) by human activities related to gold mining.


Adola Ethiopia Metals Mining Sediment 



Ethiopian Science and Technology Commission financed part of the research project. We thank Dr. Seifu Kebede for his constructive comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Earth SciencesAddis Ababa UniversityAddis AbabaEthiopia

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