Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 62, Issue 1, pp 171–183 | Cite as

Geochemical evolution of uraniferous soda lakes in Eastern Mongolia

  • Benjamin S. LinhoffEmail author
  • Philip C. Bennett
  • Tamir Puntsag
  • Ochir Gerel
Original Article


Extremely high concentrations of uranium (U) were discovered in shallow, groundwater-fed hyperalkaline soda lakes in Eastern Mongolia. A representative groundwater sample in this area is dilute and alkaline, pH = 7.9, with 10 mM TIC and 5 mM Cl. In contrast, a representative lake water sample is pH ~ 10 with TIC and Cl each more than 1,000 mM. Groundwater concentrations of U range from 0.03 to 0.43 μM L−1. Lake water U ranges from 0.24 to >62.5 μM, possibly the highest naturally occurring U concentrations ever reported in surface water. Strontium isotopes 87Sr/86Sr varied in groundwaters from 0.706192 to 0.709776 and in lakes 87Sr/86Sr varied from 0.708702 to 0.709432. High concentrations of U, Na, Cl, and K correlate to radiogenic Sr in lake waters suggesting that U is sourced from local Cretaceous alkaline rhyolites. Uranium-rich groundwaters are concentrated by evaporation and U(VI) is chelated by CO 3 −2 to form the highly soluble UO2(CO3) 3 −4 . Modeled evaporation of lakes suggests that a U-mineral phase is likely to precipitate during evaporation.


Soda lake Geochemistry Uranium Mongolia 



We thank the US Student Fulbright Program and the Jackson School of Geosciences at The University of Texas at Austin for financial support. We also thank Todd Housh, Laura Heister and Larry Mack and the Central Geological Laboratory in Ulaanbaatar for sample analysis, and Jay Banner and John Sharp for insight into isotope geochemistry and hydrogeology. Finally, we would like to thank the anonymous reviewer who helped improve this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin S. Linhoff
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  • Philip C. Bennett
    • 1
  • Tamir Puntsag
    • 2
  • Ochir Gerel
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  2. 2.Central Laboratory of Environment and Metrology, NAMEMUlaanbaatar-36Mongolia
  3. 3.Mongolian University of Science and TechnologyUlaanbaatarMongolia
  4. 4.Earth and Environmental Sciences DivisionLos Alamos National LaboratoryLos AlamosUSA

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