Spatial distribution, source, and risk assessment of soil toxic metals in the coal-mining region of northwestern China

  • Abdugheni Abliz
  • Qingdong ShiEmail author
  • Maierdang Keyimu
  • Rukeya Sawut
Original Paper


Soil toxic metal pollution is one of the most prominent environmental problems in the rapid industrialization of societies because of the considerable harm caused to human existence and the surrounding environments. Soil samples from 80 sampling sites around the coal-mining region of northwestern China were collected, and the geo-accumulation index (Igeo), pollution index (PI), and potential ecological risk index (PRI) were calculated, with the objective of assessing the soil toxic metal pollution level. The results showed that the average concentrations of Cr, Hg, and As exceeded the regional background values and the national soil environmental quality standards of China, while those of Zn, Cu, and Pb were below both soil-quality standards. The Igeo of toxic metals was ranked as Hg > As > Cr > Pb > Cu > Zn. The Igeo of Zn, Cu, and Pb indicated low pollution; the soils were moderately polluted by Hg and slightly moderately polluted by As, while other elements presented low pollution levels. The PI values of both As and Hg were higher than 3, indicating heavy pollution of these two metals. Zn and Cu originated from parent material, while Cr, As, and Hg originated from human activities such as coal burning, chemical industry, and traffic. Pb was influenced by both natural factors and human activities. The results of ecological risk assessment in the region showed that Zn, Cu, Cr, and Pb in all sample sites presented a low ecological risk, while Hg presented a high ecological risk. Therefore, Hg is the most hazardous toxic metals in the region. The spatial distribution trends revealed that the high-risk regions were found to be the industrial region of the study area. The research results provide a scientific basis and technical support for monitoring and early warning of soil pollution in arid regions.


Coal mining Toxic metal pollution Pollution index (PI) Risk assessment Spatial distribution 



The authors wish to thank the referees for providing helpful suggestions to improve this manuscript.

Funding information

The authors are grateful for the financial support provided by the Chinese National Natural Science Foundation (51704259), Natural Science Foundation of Xinjiang Autonomous Region (2017D01C065), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (2018 M633609),and Xinjiang University Fund for Distinguished Young Scholars (No. BS2018).


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Copyright information

© Saudi Society for Geosciences 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abdugheni Abliz
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Qingdong Shi
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Maierdang Keyimu
    • 3
    • 4
  • Rukeya Sawut
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Institute of Arid Ecology and EnvironmentXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina
  2. 2.Ecological Postdoctoral Research StationXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Oasis EcologyXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.College of Resources and Environment SciencesXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina

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