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The Amazon Gold Rush and Environmental Mercury Contamination
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Authors: Daniel Marcos Bonotto (Dept de Petrologia e Metalogenia, IGCE-Instituto de Geociências e Ciências Exatas, UNESP-Universidade Estadual Paulista “Júlio de Mesquita Filho”, Rio Claro-SP and Ene Glória da Silveira (Dept de Química, UNIR-Fundação Universidade 
Book Description:
The importance of the Amazon area to sustain the global equilibrium in the environment has been recognized worldwide. This has been much more accentuated in the present days due to the intense debate related to global warming. Consequently, all initiatives/studies directed to a better knowledge/management of that huge environment are welcome and needed. This book is a contribution to this task, as gold has been exploited intensively in the Brazilian Amazon during the past 30 years using garimpo methods (small-scale gold mining), where the elemental mercury (Hg) used in amalgamating the gold, the final stage of the ore dressing process, has caused abnormal Hg concentrations in waterways. This has occurred in several areas of the Amazon region, where most of the ore prospected is alluvial. Particular attention to the Madeira River has been given since 1986 by several investigators. The main reason for this is that the Madeira River is the largest tributary of the Amazon River and the gold mining was officially allowed on a 350-km sector of the river, for its mid and upper reach, in the northwestern reach of the Amazon basin. Consequently, mercury was released from gold-mining fields to the atmosphere or to waterways in the metallic form, due to the large number of mechanical dredges operating simultaneously (about 6,000 during the peak mining activities). Although Hg0 is relatively immobile in the aquatic environment and its solubility is low in water, Hg contamination in people living upstream and downstream from garimpos has been reported. The gold-mining activities on the Madeira River basin reduced substantially in the present days, i.e. it is practically absent. However, despite this, it is necessary a better understanding of the Hg behavior in tropical aquatic systems, mainly close to the most populated areas, as people may be still suffering toxicological consequences of the Hg releases in the past. Therefore, even in the present days, the knowledge of the mercury occurring in the aquatic system of the Madeira River basin is a great concern by local/international authorities and environmentalists, since it can contribute for identifying the effects of the anthropogenic Hg inputs relatively to the background reference levels expressing the natural Hg concentration. This book describes the results obtained on the analysis of samples of water, bottom sediments, suspended solids and fishes that were collected at the Madeira River basin, Brazil, with the purpose of investigating the mercury release in the aquatic environment as a consequence of the gold mining activities.

Table of Contents:
Preface

1. THE MERCURY USE DURING THE AMAZON GOLD RUSH

2. MERCURY IN THE ENVIRONMENT
Some properties of mercury
The ion Hg22+
Mercury halides
Mercury salts
Mercury minerals
Mercury distribution in rocks
Mercury mobilization
Mercury adsorption

3. THE MADEIRA RIVER BASIN AT RONDÔNIA STATE, BRAZIL
Location of the investigated area
Synthesis of the regional geology evolution
Geological description of Rondônia State and neighborhood
Additional geological informations
Climate
Vegetation
Hydrography
Geomorphology

4. MEASURING MERCURY
Major features of the instrumentation
Calibration of the FIMS system from UNIR

5. MERCURY AND OTHERS PARAMETERS IN WATERS OF MADEIRA RIVER
Sampling
Analytical protocol
Results

6. HYDROCHEMICAL RELATIONSHIPS IN MADEIRA RIVER
The use of the Piper diagram for classifying the waters
The use of the Gibbs diagram for classifying the waters
pH and redox potential variations
Eh - pH diagram for mercury compounds

7. MERCURY AND OTHERS PARAMETERS IN ROCKS, SUSPENDED SOLIDS AND SEDIMENTS FROM MADEIRA RIVER
Sampling
Analytical protocol
Mercury in rocks and sediments
Chemical analysis in sediments
Chemical analysis in suspended solids
X-ray diffraction analysis
Statistical correlation tests

8. THE MOBILITY OF MERCURY AND OTHERS ELEMENTS IN THE MADEIRA RIVER
The preference ratio relative to mercury
The preference for Hg in Madeira River
The preference ratios for others elements in Madeira River

9. MERCURY IN LAKE SEDIMENTS FROM MADEIRA RIVER BASIN
Sampling
Analytical protocol
Results of the chemical analysis
Major significant relationships

10. THE ASSOCIATION OF MERCURY AND SELENIUM IN SEDIMENTS FROM MADEIRA RIVER BASIN
Major facts about the Se presence in the environment
Sampling and analytical protocol
The importance of weathering processes
The presence of Se(IV) at the Madeira River basin
The retention of selenium and mercury at the Madeira River basin

11. MERCURY IN FISHES FROM MADEIRA RIVER BASIN
Sampling and analytical protocol
The Hg content in selected fishes
Statistical analysis of the Hg concentration data

12. THE FUTURE CHALLENGES

13. REFERENCES

Index

   Series:
      Environmental Science, Engineering and Technology
   Binding: Hardcover
   Pub. Date: 2009 - 3rd Quarter
   Pages: 7 x 10, 131 pp.
   ISBN: 978-1-60741-609-8
   Status: AV
  
Status Code Description
AN Announcing
FM Formatting
PP Page Proofs
FP Final Production
EP Editorial Production
PR At Prepress
AP At Press
AV Available
  
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The Amazon Gold Rush and Environmental Mercury Contamination