Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 25, Issue 28, pp 28061–28074 | Cite as

Distribution and migration of antimony and other trace elements in a Karstic river system, Southwest China

  • Ling LiEmail author
  • Hong Liu
  • Haixia Li
Research Article


Antimony (Sb) usually occurs associated with arsenic, lead, and other metal elements in sulfide deposits, and most is currently being extracted from the Karst areas, southwest China. In these areas, the acid generated from the oxidative dissolution of sulfide minerals is neutralized by the abundant carbonates but little is known about the effect of this process on the geochemical behavior of Sb and other contaminants. In this study, physicochemical properties (pH, EC) and the trace elements (Sb, As, Cu, Pb, Zn, Sr, etc.) concentrations in waters from mining-impacted Karstic environments were determined in order to determine their distribution and migration potential. It was found that pH values ranged from 6.51 to 9.82, and EC values varied from 369 to 1705 μs·cm−1 in river water samples. Waters of various types such as adit waters, flotation drainage, leaching waters, and river waters all contained high concentrations of dissolved trace elements, reaching up to 5475 μg·L−1Sb, 1877 μg·L−1As, 10,371 μg·L−1Zn, 1309 μg·L−1 Pb, 46 μg·L−1 Cu, and 1757 μg·L−1 Sr. The elevated concentrations of dissolved Sr indicated that Sr could be considered as an indicator of oxidative dissolution of sulfide minerals in the Karst rivers. A proportion of the trace elements were removed in the streams in the vicinity of the mine due to adsorption onto particulate matter, whereas migration of trace elements in the downstream of mine area was attributed to dispersion in dissolved forms. Strontium and Sb have a strong hydrophilicity compared to the other elements analyzed; in contrast, Pb had a high affinity for suspended particulate matter (SPM). It was also found that downstream sediments had elevated concentrations of mining-derived trace elements, but there was a significant decrease in concentration of contaminants in aqueous phase, suggesting that contaminant behavior was conservative in the water-sediment systems under the oxic conditions prevailing in these waters. There was a good correlation between Sb and As in water-SPM-sediment system, indicating that Sb and As are homologous in water environment of the study area.


Antimony Trace elements Karstic rivers Mining activities 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No.41401568). The authors would like to acknowledge Dr. Margaret Graham, a reader in University of Edinburgh, for her instructive suggestions and valuable comments on the writing of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  3. 3.College of Politics and LawTaiyuan University of TechnologyTaiyuanChina

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