2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)
Paper No. 9-8
Presentation Time: 9:45 AM-10:00 AM


KOLKER, Allan1, PANOV, Boris S.2, KUNDIEV, Yuri I.3, TRACHTENBERG, Isaac M.3, GIBB, Herman J.4, KORCHEMAGIN, Viktor A.2, and CENTENO, José A.5, (1) U.S. Geol Survey, MS-956, National Center, Reston, VA 20192, akolker@usgs.gov, (2) Dept. Mineral Deposits and Ecological Geology, Donetsk National Technical Univ, 58 Artem St, Donetsk, 83000, (3) Ukraine Institute of Occupational Health, Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, 75 Saksagansky St, Kyiv, 01033, (4) Sciences Int'l, Inc, 1800 Diagonal Rd, Alexandria, VA 22314-2808, (5) Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Washington, DC 20306

Extraordinarily high levels of mercury are present in Gorlovka, Ukraine (population 320,000) whose city limits include the Nikitovka mines, a world-class deposit that produced about 30 thousand metric tons of mercury prior to shutdown of the operation in 1994. The workings at Nikitovka presently consist of abandoned open-pits, extensive mine tailings and tailings ponds, and an abandoned mercury processing plant. Cinnabar-bearing ore zones include three thick (> 60 m) faulted sandstone horizons. Mercury is also dispersed within coal formerly produced as a byproduct of mercury mining and used extensively by local industries.

Regional mercury enrichment occurs along the central fault zone of the Donets basin of Ukraine and Russia. Twenty-four coal samples from coal mines near Donetsk active in 2000/2001* were found to have a mean of 0.61 ppm Hg and a maximum of 3.5 ppm (dry basis; for reference, coal delivered to U.S. power plants has an average of 0.1 ppm Hg). Four coal samples collected from the Nikitovka mines in 2001 have mercury contents of 12.8 to 25.5 ppm. The Nikitovka coal samples also have high levels of As (126 to 268 ppm), Sb (1.35 to 11.1 ppm), and Tl (1.85 to 12.9 ppm). Mercury vapor concentrations near the Nikitovka mercury processing plant are hundreds of times background levels [1]. The abandoned Nikitovka Mines are accessible to individuals who collect coal for domestic use, fish in the tailings ponds, and graze livestock. These practices clearly result in human exposure to mercury, possibly impacting the nervous, renal, and cardiovascular systems. A study of two Gorlovka schools found high concentrations of mercury in urine, blood, and bones of children [2]. To confirm this exposure and determine possible health effects, we plan to collect additional tissue samples and evaluate the feasibility of a larger epidemiologic study in Gorlovka. Other objectives include determining mercury levels in urban areas of Gorlovka, and the extent to which inorganic mercury is methylated in wetland areas near the mines.

[1] Panov, B. S., and others, 1999, International Journal of Coal Geology, v. 40, p. 199-210. [2] Trachtenberg, I. M., and others, 1996, Journal of the National Academy of Medical Sciences of Ukraine, v. 1, p. 109-117.

*Supported by NATO Science Program Collaborative Linkage Grant 977829

2004 Denver Annual Meeting (November 7–10, 2004)
General Information for this Meeting
Session No. 9
Sources, Transport, Fate, and Toxicology of Trace Elements in the Environment
Colorado Convention Center: 207
8:00 AM-12:00 PM, Sunday, 7 November 2004

Geological Society of America Abstracts with Programs, Vol. 36, No. 5, p. 28

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