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Mercury sources and bioavailability in lakes located in the mining district of Chibougamau, eastern Canada

Petit, Stéphane and Lucotte, Marc and Teisserenc, Roman Mercury sources and bioavailability in lakes located in the mining district of Chibougamau, eastern Canada. (2011) Applied Geochemistry, 26 (2). 230-241. ISSN 0883-2927

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.apgeochem.2010.11.023


The presence of Hg in the fish of the lakes from the Cu–Zn–Au mining region of Chibougamau (Canada) represents a serious source of concern for the health of local sports and subsistence fishers. This study focuses on identifying the origin of Hg present in the sediments of lakes with mine wastes stored in tailing facilities located on their shores. In addition to C/N ratios and determination of total Hg, Methyl Hg and other metals, a series of lignin biomarkers were used to contrast the history of the mining contamination with the nature and the intensity of terrigenous organic matter (TOM) inputs from the watersheds to the sampled lakes. It appears that sediments located nearest to mine tailings are as expected most enriched in total Hg and other metals (Cu, As, Al, Fe, Pb). Nevertheless, the presence of only small amounts of refractory TOM in these contaminated sediments could explain why only a very small fraction of Hg is found as Methyl Hg. In sediments with little or no impact by mining activities, a relationship was observed between logging activities in the lake watershed and increased TOM derived from inorganic gymnosperms soils horizons and increased Hg transport to the lakes. Nevertheless, it appears that the additional TOM transported to logged lakes is refractory enough not to promote high levels of Methyl Hg. The highest fractions of Methyl Hg relative to total Hg in lake sediments of the studied area were thus observed in relatively pristine environments where least degraded TOM is brought from the watersheds.

Item Type:Article
Additional Information:Thanks to Elsevier editor. The definitive version is available at http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883292710002647
Audience (journal):International peer-reviewed journal
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Institution:Other partners > Université du Québec à Montréal - UQAM (CANADA)
Laboratory name:
Deposited On:17 Sep 2012 08:43

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