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Transport of mercury species by river from artisanal and small-scale gold mining in West Java, Indonesia

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To estimate the impact of mercury discharged from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) activity, variations in the concentrations of elemental mercury (Hg0), mercury ion (Hg2+), particulate mercury (P-Hg), and total mercury in filtered river water (FT-Hg) were investigated from sampling locations extending from 10 km upstream to 30 km downstream of ASGM operations in West Java, Indonesia. The average of the annual concentrations at the ASGM site from 2013 to 2017 were 0.14–0.85 μg L−1, 0.27–12.9 μg L−1, 4.3–49.5 μg L−1, and 1.2–12.5 μg L−1 for Hg0, Hg2+, P-Hg, and FT-Hg, respectively. The concentration of mercury species decreased as the distance from the ASGM site increased, while the ratio of P-Hg increased towards the lower reaches of the river system, with the percentage of P-Hg estimated at 90% of Hg at the sample location furthest downstream. A high mercury concentration of 600 mg kg−1 was observed for suspended particulate matter (SPM) at the ASGM site. The SPM maintained a high concentration of mercury, even in the downstream area. In the annual variations of the mercury species from 2013 to 2017, FT-Hg and P-Hg concentrations tended to decrease from 2016, which suggested a decline of ASGM activity in this area. However, SPM and river sediment showed no apparent changes in their mercury concentrations over this period, indicating that the contamination in the river system is persistent and does not recover quickly.

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This work was supported by Grants-in-Aid (Nos. 22404002 and 25257302) for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS).

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Correspondence to Takashi Tomiyasu.

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Tomiyasu, T., Hamada, Y.K., Kodamatani, H. et al. Transport of mercury species by river from artisanal and small-scale gold mining in West Java, Indonesia. Environ Sci Pollut Res 26, 25262–25274 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11356-019-05718-6

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  • Mercury pollution
  • ASGM
  • River
  • Suspended matter
  • Transport