Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 1225–1237 | Cite as

Geochemical transformation of soil cover in copper–molybdenum mining areas (Erdenet, Mongolia)

  • Ivan V. TimofeevEmail author
  • Natalia E. Kosheleva
  • Nikolay S. Kasimov
  • Petr D. Gunin
  • Enkh-Amgalan Sandag
Soil Pollution and Remediation



The aim of the present study is to evaluate geochemical transformation of soil cover in the territory of Erdenet (Mongolia) and to assess the environmental risk associated with soil cover contamination. The objectives of the present study included: (1) the determination of heavy metals (HMs) and metalloids contents in surface horizons of background and urban soils and the assessment of geochemical transformation of the city’s soil cover; (2) the identification of elements’ associations and patterns of their spatial distribution in the soil cover of the city; (3) the assessment of environmental hazard, related to contamination of soils with complexes of HMs and metalloids.

Materials and methods

Soil–geochemical survey was conducted by the authors in the summer periods of 2010 and 2011. In total, 225 samples, including 32 backgrounds, were collected. Bulk contents of HMs and metalloids in soil samples were analyzed by mass-spectral method with inductively coupled plasma at All-Russian Research Institute of Mineral Raw Materials (Moscow) using Elan-6100 and Optima-4300 devices (Perkin Elmer, USA).

Results and discussion

Mo, Cu, and Se appeared to be the priority pollutants nearly in all land-use zones. The maximum accumulation of Mo, Cu, Se, As, Sb, and W is restricted to the industrial area where total pollution index of soils (Zc) equals 74.8. Three technogenic associations of elements, derived mainly from petrochemical features of Erdenet ore field and characterized by similar spatial distribution within the city, are identified. Environmental assessment of surface soil horizon geochemistry in Erdenet showed that 1/5 of its area has dangerous and extremely dangerous levels of soil pollution.


Experience of the environmental–geochemical assessment of soil cover in the impact zone of mining enterprises could be useful for other fields of the non-ferrous metals with high lithological–geochemical heterogeneity of the territory. It suggests the need of accounting for the geological diversity and specific features of metallogeny of an area. Geochemical indices local enrichment factor/local depletion factor should be calculated against the individual background values for each soil-forming rock. Such approach allows more accurate assessment of the degree of technogenic geochemical transformation of soils and the environmental hazard of pollution.


Environmental hazards Heavy metals Mining landscapes Technogenic anomalies Type of land use Urban soils 



This study was carried out in the framework of the research supported by Russian Scientific Foundation (project № 14-27-00083). The authors would like to thank the translator Elena N. Aseeva, and the reviewers for their valuable comments, which highly improved the manuscript.


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  1.–the official site of Erdenet mining Corporation
  2.–World Meteorological Organization

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ivan V. Timofeev
    • 1
    Email author
  • Natalia E. Kosheleva
    • 1
  • Nikolay S. Kasimov
    • 1
  • Petr D. Gunin
    • 2
  • Enkh-Amgalan Sandag
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Landscape Geochemistry and Soil Geography, Faculty of GeographyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Laboratory for Ecology of Arid Territories, A.N. Severtsov’s Institute for Ecology and EvolutionRussian Academy of SciencesMoscowRussia
  3. 3.Institute of GeographyMongolian Academy of SciencesUlaanbaatarMongolia

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