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Influence of Sungun copper mine on groundwater quality, NW Iran


Sungun mine is the largest open-cast copper mine in northwest of Iran and is in the primary stages of extraction. The influence of mining activity on the quality of regional groundwater has been taken in to consideration in this study. Accordingly, sampling was done from 22 springs in the study area. The concentrations of major anions and cations as well as Al, Cu, Cd, Cr, Fe, Mn, and Zn were determined for all 22 spring samples in mid-August 2005. The results showed that the concentrations of most of these elements were below the USA Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) limits; however, Al and Fe concentrations are considered to be more than limits in a couple of samples. Despite the fact that geological formations are highly weathered and fractured, the dissolution of minerals within the study area is low. This may be justified by the relatively high alkalinity of local underground water which keeps metals in solid phase and does not let them enter dissolved phase. Additionally, this may be attributed to the high velocity of groundwater flows, which do not give enough time for minerals to dissolve. Correlation coefficients among water chemistry components were determined and the weighted-pair group method was chosen for cluster analysis. Accordingly, high correlation among Al, Fe and Cr, Cd ,and Cu, sodium absorption ratio (SAR) and Na as well as total hardness (TH), Ca, and Mg were observed. The chemical characteristics of water compositions on the basis of major ion concentrations were evaluated on a Schoeller and Piper diagram. Accordingly, the dominant type of water in the region is considered to be Ca-HCO3 (calcium-bicarbonate type). However, this type of water is also rich in Na, K, and especially Mg. Regarding Schoeller diagram, the current status of local underground water is good for drinking purposes. By commencing mining excavation with designed capacity in near future, the minerals will come into contact with air and water resulting in dissolution, especially in ponds, which, in turn, will increase the concentration of toxic metals in groundwater. Considering future uses of this water including for drinking, irrigation, industrial purposes, etc., precautions must be taken in to consideration.

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Correspondence to T. Nasrabadi.

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Nasrabadi, T., Nabi Bidhendi, G.R., Karbassi, A.R. et al. Influence of Sungun copper mine on groundwater quality, NW Iran. Environ Geol 58, 693–700 (2009).

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  • Sungun copper mine
  • Iran
  • Groundwater