Geochemical behaviors of antimony in mining-affected water environment (Southwest China)

  • Ling LiEmail author
  • Han Tu
  • Shui Zhang
  • Linna Wu
  • Min Wu
  • Yang Tang
  • Pan WuEmail author
Original Paper


Antimony (Sb) is a harmful element, and Sb pollution is one of the typical environmental issues in China, meaning that understanding of the geochemical behaviors of Sb is the key to control the fate of environmental Sb pollution. Sb tends to migrate in soluble form in the water–sediment system, but the fate of dissolved Sb is poorly known. Duliujiang river basin, located in southwest China, provided us with a natural aqueous environment to study the transport of Sb because of its unique geological and geographical characteristics. Physicochemical properties (pH, EC, Eh, DO, Flux), trace elements (Sb, As, Sr) and main ions (Ca2+, Mg2+, SO42−) concentrations in mining-impacted waters were measured in order to determine their distribution and migration potential. There are three types of water samples; they are main stream waters (pH of 7.33–8.43), tributary waters (pH of 6.85–9.12) and adit waters with pH values ranging from 7.57 to 9.76, respectively. Results showed that adit waters contained elevated concentrations of Sb reaching up to 13350 µg L−1 from the abandoned Sb mines, and mine wastes contained up to 8792 mg kg−1 Sb from the historical mine dumps are the important sources of Sb pollution in the Duliujiang river basin. Dissolved Sb had strong migration ability in streams, while its attenuation mainly depended on the dilution of tributary water with large flow rate. In the exit section of the Duliujiang river basin, which had only 10 µg L−1 of average Sb concentration. The simple deionized water extraction was designed to investigate the ability of Sb likely to dissolve from the mine wastes. The results indicated that a greater solubility of Sb in alkaline (pH of 7.11–8.16) than in acid (pH of 3.03–4.45) mine wastes, suggesting that mine wastes contained high Sb concentrations, could release Sb into solution in the natural river waters. Furthermore, the fate of Sb pollution depends on the comprehensive treatment of abandoned adit waters and mine wastes in the upper reaches of the drainage basin.


Antimony Migration Adit water Mine waste 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Nos. U1612442, 41401568) and the Project of Science and Technology Department of Guizhou Province (RENCAI[2016]5664; [2016]ZHICHENG2835). The authors would like to acknowledge the Environmental Protection Bureau of Qiannan and the Environmental Protection Bureau of Qiandongnan, Guizhou Province, for the routine monitoring data of cross section provided to this paper.

Supplementary material

10653_2019_285_MOESM1_ESM.doc (410 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 409 kb)


  1. Anawar, H. M., Freitas, M. C., Canha, N., & Regina, S. (2011). Arsenic, antimony, and other trace element contamination in a mine tailings affected area and uptake by tolerant plant species. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 33, 353–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Asaoka, S., Takahashi, Y., Araki, Y., & Tanimizu, M. (2012). Comparison of antimony and arsenic behavior in an Ichinokawa River water–sediment system. Chemical Geology, 334, 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ashley, P. M., Craw, D., Graham, B. P., & Chappell, D. A. (2003). Environmental mobility of antimony around mesothermal stibnite deposits, New South Wales, Australia and southern New Zealand. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 77, 1–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Casiot, C., Ujevic, M., Munoz, M., Seidel, J. L., & Elbaz-Poulichet, F. (2007). Antimony and arsenic mobility in a creek draining an antimony mine abandoned 85 years ago (upper Orb basin, France). Applied Geochemistry, 22, 788–798.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen, G., Du, H., Zhang, S., & Huang, G. (1991). A preliminary study of geological features and ore-forming geological conditions of the Sb-ore deposit in Bameng of Rongjiang County, Guizhou. Guizhou Geology, 8(4), 302–312. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  6. Cidu, R., Biddau, R., Dore, E., Vacca, A., & Marini, L. (2014). Antimony in the soil–water–plant system at the Su Suergiu abandoned mine (Sardinia, Italy): Strategies to mitigate contamination. Science of the Total Environment, 497–498, 319–331.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Council of the European Communities. (1976). Council Directive 76/464/EEC of 4 May 1976 on pollution caused by certain dangerous substances discharged into the aquatic environment of the Community. Official Journal L 129, 18/05/1976, 23–29.Google Scholar
  8. Cui, Y., Jin, S., & Wang, X. (1995). Metallogenic conditions and prospecting criteria of Sb deposit in Dushan area of Guizhou. Geology and Prospecting, 31(3), 24–30. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  9. Ding, J. H., Yang, Y. H., & Deng, F. (2013). Resource potential and metallogenic prognosis of antimony deposits in China. Geology in China, 3, 846–858. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  10. Ettler, V., Mihaljevic, M., Šebek, O., & Nechutný, Z. (2007). Antimony availability in highly polluted soils and sediments—A comparison of single extractions. Chemosphere, 68, 455–463.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fawcett, S., Jamieson, H., Nordstrom, D., & McCleskey, R. (2015). Arsenic and antimony geochemistry of mine wastes, associated waters and sediments at the Giant Mine, Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Applied Geochemistry, 62, 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Filella, M., Belzile, N., & Chen, Y. W. (2002). Antimony in the environment: a review focused on natural waters I. Occurrence. Earth-Science Reviews, 57, 125–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Flynn, H. C., Meharg, A. A., Bowyer, P. K., & Paton, G. I. (2003). Antimony bioavailability in mine soil. Environmental Pollution, 124, 93–100.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fu, Z. Y., Wu, F. C., Mo, C.-L., Deng, Q. J., Meng, W., & Giesy, J. P. (2016). Comparison of arsenic and antimony biogeochemical behavior in water, soil and tailings from Xikuangshan, China. Science of the Total Environment, 539, 97–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gil-Díaz, T., Schäfer, J., Coynel, A., Bossy, C., Dutruch, L., & Blanc, G. (2018). Antimony in the Lot-Garonne river system: A 14-year record of solid–liquid partitioning and fluxes. Environmental Chemistry, 2018(15), 121–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Glöser, S., Espinoza, L. T., Gandenberger, C., & Faulstich, M. (2015). Raw material criticality in the context of classical risk assessment. Resources Policy, 44, 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Guo, W. J., Fu, Z. Y., Wang, H., Song, F. H., Wu, F. C., & Giesy, J. P. (2018). Environmental geochemical and spatial/temporal behavior of total and speciation of antimony in typical contaminated aquatic environment from Xikuangshan, China. Microchemical Journal, 137, 181–189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. He, M. C. (2007). Distribution and phytoavailability of antimony at an antimony mining and smelting area, Hunan, China. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 29(3), 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. He, M. C., Wang, N. N., Long, X. J., Zhang, C. J., Ma, C. L., Zhong, Q. Y., et al. (2018). Antimony speciation in the environment: Recent advances in understanding the biogeochemical processes and ecological effects. Journal of Environmental Sciences. Scholar
  20. He, M. C., Wang, X. Q., Wu, F. C., & Fu, Z. Y. (2012). Antimony pollution in China. Science of the Total Environment, 421–422, 41–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Heikkinen, P. M., Räisänen, M. L., & Johnson, R. H. (2009). Geochemical characterisation of seepage and drainage water quality from two sulphide mine tailings impoundments: Acid mine drainage versus neutral mine drainage. Mine Water and the Environment, 28, 30–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Herath, I., Vithanage, M., & Bundschuh, J. (2017). Antimony as a global dilemma: Geochemistry, mobility, fate and transport. Environmental Pollution, 223, 545–559.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hiller, E., Lalinská, B., Chovan, M., Jurkovič, L., Klimko, T., Jankulár, M., et al. (2012). Arsenic and antimony contamination of waters, stream sediments and soils in the vicinity of abandoned antimony mines in the Western Carpathians, Slovakia. Applied Geochemistry, 27, 598–614.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hockmann, K., & Schulin, R. (2012). Leaching of antimony from contaminated soils. In H. Magdi Selim (Ed.), Competitive sorption and transport of heavy metals in soil and geological media (vol. 121). CRC Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hu, X., He, M., Li, S., & Guo, X. (2017a). The leaching characteristics and changes in the leached layer of antimony-bearing ores from China. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 176, 76–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hu, X. Y., He, M. C., Li, S. S., & Guo, X. J. (2017b). The leaching characteristics and changes in the leached layer of antimony-bearing ores from China. Journal of Geochemical Exploration, 176, 76–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Li, L., Liu, H., & Li, H. X. (2018). Distribution and migration of antimony and other trace elements in a Karstic river system, Southwest China. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 25(28), 28061–28074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Li, X., Yang, H., Zhang, C., Zeng, G., Liu, Y., Xu, W., et al. (2017). Spatial distribution and transport characteristics of heavy metals around an antimony mine area in central China. Chemosphere, 170, 17–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lindsay, M. B. J., Condon, P. D., Jambor, J. L., Lear, K. G., Blowes, D. W., & Ptacek, C. J. (2009). Mineralogical, geochemical, and microbial investigation of a sulfide-rich tailings deposit characterized by neutral drainage. Applied Geochemistry, 24, 2212–2221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Liu, Y. J., Cao, L. M., & Li, Z. L. (1984). Element geochemistry (Vol. 365). Beijing: Science in China Press. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  31. Liu, F., Le, X. C., McKnight-Whitford, A., Xia, Y. L., Wu, F. C., Elswick, E., et al. (2010). Antimony speciation and contamination of waters in the Xikuangshan antimony mining and smelting area, China. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 32, 401–413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu, C.-Q., Zhao, Z. Q., Tao, F. X., Han, G. L., Jiang, Y. K., & Xu, Z. F. (2007). Geochemistry of Karst River Water and Basin Geology and Ecological Environment. In: Biogeochemistry Processes and Surface-Earth Materials Cycling-Erosion and Biological Nutrients Cycling in Karstic Catchments, Southwest China (pp. 148). Science in China Press (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  33. Luo, Y., Huang, Z., Xiao, X., & Ding, W. (2014). Contents of ore-forming elements and geological significance of Dushan antimony ore field, Guizhou Province, China. Acta Mineralogica Sinica, 34(2), 247–253. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  34. Macgregor, K., MacKinnon, G., Farmer, J., & Graham, M. (2015). Mobility of antimony, arsenic and lead at a former antimony mine, Glendinning, Scotland. Science of the Total Environment, 529, 213–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Masson, M., Schäfer, J., Blanc, G., Dabrin, A., Castelle, S., & Lavaux, G. (2009). Behavior of arsenic and antimony in the surface freshwater reaches of a highly turbid estuary, the Gironde Estuary, France. Applied Geochemistry, 24(9), 1747–1756.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mykolenko, S., Liedienov, V., Kharytonov, M., Makieieva, N., Kuliush, T., Queralt, I., et al. (2018). Presence, mobility and bioavailability of toxic metal(oids) in soil, vegetation and water around a Pb–Sb recycling factory (Barcelona, Spain). Environmental Pollution, 237, 569–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Nyirenda, T., Zhou, J., Xie, L., Pan, X., & Li, Y. (2015). Determination of carbonate minerals responsible for alkaline mine drainage at Xikuangshan antimony mine, China: Using thermodynamic chemical equilibrium model. Journal of Earth Science, 26, 755–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Ren, B., Wang, C., Ma, H., Deng, R., & Zhang, P. (2016). Effect to rainfall on Sb release characteristics from smelting slag in rainy south China. Fresenius Environmental Bulletin, 25, 4908–4914.Google Scholar
  39. Ritchie, V. J., Ilgen, A. G., Mueller, S. H., Trainor, T. P., & Goldfarb, R. J. (2013). Mobility and chemical fate of antimony and arsenic in historic mining environments of the Kantishna Hills district, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Chemical Geology, 335, 172–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Sharifi, R., Moore, F., & Keshavarzi, B. (2016). Mobility and chemical fate of arsenic and antimony in water and sediments of Sarouq River catchment, Takab geothermal field, northwest Iran. Journal of Environmental Management, 170, 136–144.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Shotyk, W., Krachler, M., & Chen, B. (2005). Antimony: Global environmental contaminant. Journal of Environmental Monitoring, 7, 1135–1136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Sun, W. M., Xiao, E. Z., Dong, Y. R., Tang, S., Krumins, V., Ning, Z. P., et al. (2016a). Profiling microbial community in a watershed heavily contaminated by an active antimony (Sb) mine in Southwest China. Science of the Total Environment, 550, 297–308.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Sun, W. M., Xiao, E. Z., Kalin, M., Krumins, V., Dong, Y. R., Ning, Z. P., et al. (2016b). Remediation of antimony-rich mine waters: Assessment of antimony removal and shifts in the microbial community of an onsite field-scale bioreactor. Environmental Pollution, 215, 213–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Tan, D., Long, J., Li, B., Ding, D., Du, H., & Lei, M. (2018). Fraction and mobility of antimony and arsenic in three polluted soils: A comparison of single extraction and sequential extraction. Chemosphere, 213, 533–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. United States Environmental Protection Agency. (1979). Water Related Fate of the 129 Priority Pollutants (Vol. 1). USEPA, Washington, DC, USA, EP-440/4-79-029A.Google Scholar
  46. U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). (2018). Mineral Commodity Summaries. Antimony. Statistics and Information. Accessed Jan 2018.
  47. Wang, Y. L., Chen, Y. C., Wang, D. H., Xu, J., Chen, Z. H., & Liang, T. (2013). The principal antimony concentration areas in China and their resource potentials. Geology in China, 5, 1366–1378. (in Chinese).Google Scholar
  48. Wang, X. Q., He, M. C., Xi, J. H., & Lu, X. (2011). Antimony distribution and mobility in rivers around the world’s largest antimony mine of Xikuangshan, Hunan Province, China. Microchemical Journal, 97, 4–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wen, B., Zhou, J. W., Zhou, A. G., Liu, C. F., & Xie, L. (2016). Sources, migration and transformation of antimony contamination in the water environment of Xikuangshan, China: Evidence from geochemical and stable isotope (S, Sr) signatures. Science of the Total Environment, 569–570, 114–122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wilson, S. C., Lockwood, P. V., Ashley, P. M., & Tighe, M. (2010). The chemistry and behaviour of antimony in the soil environment with comparisons to arsenic: A critical review. Environmental Pollution, 158, 1169–1181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Xiao, E. Z., Krumins, V., Tang, S., Xiao, T. F., Ning, Z. P., Lan, X. L., et al. (2016). Correlating microbial community profiles with geochemical conditions in a watershed heavily contaminated by an antimony tailing pond. Environmental Pollution, 215, 141–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Yang, H. L., He, M. C., & Wang, X. Q. (2015). Concentration and speciation of antimony and arsenic in soil profiles around the world’s largest antimony metallurgical area in China. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, 37, 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhang, Z. X., Lu, Y., Li, H. P., Tu, Y., Liu, B. Y., & Yang, Z. G. (2018). Assessment of heavy metal contamination, distribution and source identification in the sediments from the Zijiang River, China. Science of the Total Environment, 645, 235–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Zhou, J. W., Nyirenda, M. T., Xie, L., Li, Y., Zhou, B. L., Zhu, Y., et al. (2017). Mine waste acidic potential and distribution of antimony and arsenic in waters of the Xikuangshan mine, China. Applied Geochemistry, 77, 52–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of GeochemistryChinese Academy of SciencesGuiyangChina
  2. 2.College of Resource and Environmental EngineeringGuizhou UniversityGuiyangChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Karst Environment and GeohazardMinistry of Land and ResourcesGuiyangChina

Personalised recommendations