Arsenic speciation in arsenic-rich Brazilian soils from gold mining sites under anaerobic incubation

  • Jaime W. V. de MelloEmail author
  • Jonathan L. Talbott
  • John Scott
  • William R. Roy
  • Joseph W. Stucki
Research Article



Arsenic speciation in environmental samples is essential for studying toxicity, mobility and bio-transformation of As in aquatic and terrestrial environments. Although the inorganic species As(III) and As(V) have been considered dominant in soils and sediments, organisms are able to metabolize inorganic forms of arsenic into organo-arsenic compounds. Arsenosugars and methylated As compounds can be found in terrestrial organisms, but they generally occur only as minor constituents. We investigated the dynamics of arsenic species under anaerobic conditions in soils surrounding gold mining areas from Minas Gerais State, Brazil to elucidate the arsenic biogeochemical cycle and water contamination mechanisms.


Surface soil samples were collected at those sites, namely Paracatu Formation, Banded Iron Formation and Riacho dos Machados Sequence, and incubated in CaCl2 2.5 mmol L−1 suspensions under anaerobic conditions for 1, 28, 56 and 112 days. After that, suspensions were centrifuged and supernatants analyzed for soluble As species by IC-ICPMS and HPLC-ICPMS.


Easily exchangeable As was mainly arsenite, except when reducible manganese was present. Arsenate was mainly responsible for the increase in soluble arsenic due to the reductive dissolution of either iron or manganese in samples from the Paracatu Formation and Riacho dos Machados Sequence. On the other hand, organic species of As dominated in samples from the Banded Iron Formation during anaerobic incubation.


Results are contrary to the expectation that, in anaerobic environments, As release due to the reductive dissolution of Fe is followed by As(V) reduction to As(III). The occurrence of organoarsenic species was also found to be significant to the dynamics of soluble arsenic, mainly in soils from the Banded Iron Formation (BIF), under our experimental conditions.


In general, As(V) and organic As were the dominant species in solution, which is surprising under anaerobic conditions in terrestrial environments. The unexpected occurrence of organic species of As was attributed to enrollment of ternary organic complexes or living organisms such as algae or cyanobacteria.


These findings are believed to be useful for remediation strategies in mine-affected regions, as the organic As species are in general considered to be less toxic than inorganic ones and even As(V) is considered less mobile and toxic than As(III).


Anaerobic soils arsenic speciation As biogeochemistry As in aquatic and terrestrial environments biomethylation Brazil gold mining sites organic As 


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© ecomed publishers 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaime W. V. de Mello
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jonathan L. Talbott
    • 2
  • John Scott
    • 2
  • William R. Roy
    • 3
  • Joseph W. Stucki
    • 4
  1. 1.Soil DepartmentFederal University of ViçosaViçosaBrazil
  2. 2.Waste Management and Research CenterUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC)ChampaignUSA
  3. 3.Illinois State Geological SurveyUIUCChampaignUSA
  4. 4.Department of Natural Resources and Environmental SciencesUIUCUrbanaUSA

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