Contamination impact and human health risk assessment of heavy metals in surface soils from selected major mining areas in Ghana

  • George Yaw HadziEmail author
  • Godwin A. Ayoko
  • David K. Essumang
  • Shiloh K. D. Osae
Original Paper


Analysis of soil samples around pristine and major gold-mining areas in Ghana was carried out for heavy metals as part of a larger soil contamination and metal background study. The surface soil samples were digested using microwave digester (aqua regia) and analyzed with ICP-MS for As, Cd, Hg, Zn, Co, Cu, Mn, Fe, Al, V, Cr, and Pb. The average concentrations (mg/L) for the metals ranged from 0.01 ± 0.01 (Cd) to 86,859.36 ± 47.07 (Fe) for the pristine sites, and 0.01 ± 0.01 (Cd) to 59,006.95 ± 79.06 (Fe) for the mining sites. Mercury was below the detection limit of the analytical instrument (0.029). The concentrations of heavy metals from this study were used to assess their contamination levels, and health risks. The results showed that, the metals ranked by severity of health risks as As > Pb > Cr > Cd. Principal component analysis (PCA) and cluster analysis showed two groupings with the PCA showing metals variability explained by 79.02%. Results from the PCA and Cluster analysis indicate anthropogenic sources of the metals which may be emanating from gold-mining activities. Results from multi-criteria ranking and pattern recognition employing PROMETHEE and GAIA revealed major contribution of the metals from the mining sites with metal variability explained by 72.83%. This is the first time a multi-criteria approach is employed to characterize heavy metal contamination in Ghana, and the study nevertheless brought to light the impact of mining on human health and the environment with implications for other mineral areas around the globe.


Heavy metal Mining Pristine Soil Contamination indices Health risk assessment 



This data reported in this paper was obtained at the Central Analytical Research Facility (CARF) operated by the Institute for Future Environments, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia. Access to CARF is supported by generous funding from QUT’s Science and Engineering Faculty (SEF). The authors are also grateful to CARF staff (Charlotte Allen, Sunny Hu, Irina Kinaev, Aasrshi Bhargav and David Steel) for their immeasurable support and training on the laboratory instruments and equipment during this work. The useful suggestions from Dr. James Brady and Godfred. Duodu are highly appreciated.

Author contributions

DKE conceived and designed the research topic. GYH performed the laboratory experiments, analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript. GAA, DKE and SKDO edited, shaped and provided critical feedback on the manuscript. All authors contributed to revising the article critically for intellectual content and approved the version for publication.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • George Yaw Hadzi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Godwin A. Ayoko
    • 2
  • David K. Essumang
    • 1
  • Shiloh K. D. Osae
    • 3
  1. 1.Environmental Group, Department of Chemistry, School of Physical SciencesUniversity of Cape CoastCape CoastGhana
  2. 2.School of Chemistry, Physics and Mechanical Engineering, Science and Engineering FacultyQueensland University of Technology (QUT), Gardens PointBrisbaneAustralia
  3. 3.Department of Nuclear and Environmental StudiesGhana Atomic Energy CommissionLagon –AccraGhana

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