Geochemistry of sediments of the Al-Batin alluvial fan, Southern Iraq

  • Majid Alkinani
  • Broder Merkel
Original Article


The Al-Batin alluvial fan covers a broad area of southern Iraq. It was the main battlefield of two devastating wars in 1991 and 2003, during which huge amounts of depleted uranium (DU) were used. This study aims to assess the geochemistry of this fan sediment including the potential effects of the DU used. Sixty-three samples were collected from sediments including three samples from sediments under tanks attacked by DU ammunition. Major elements were measured by XRF (fusion bead method), whereas ICP-MS was used to measure the trace elements. The results suggest that the most dominant major minerals are in the order of: quartz > secondary gypsum > calcite > feldspar, clay minerals > iron oxide, and show abnormal concentrations of Sr, Cr, Ni, and V. This study also determined an area with high concentration of U in the north east part of the fan. Statistical analysis and spatial distribution of important elements suggests that two major factors affect mineral formation. The first factor reflects the influence of minerals in the source area of the sediments (Arabian Shield): quartz, carbonate, clay minerals, feldspars, as well as iron oxides and elevated concentrations of V, Ni, and Cr. The second factor points at authigenic formation of secondary gypsum and celestite and elevated U concentration under the control of a hot arid climate and the specific groundwater situation. However, the origin of the sediments is geogenic, while the anthropogenic impact seems to be minor. Spatial distribution of U and the 235/238U ratio did not show any peaks in the places where tanks have been destroyed. This is contrary to media speculations and some scientific reports about the permanent risks of DU in the area, which creates public concern about the potential risk of living in this area.


Depleted uranium Al-Basrah Semi-arid area XRF ICP-MS 



This work was funded by the IRAQ Geological Survey (GEOSURV-IRAQ) and the Iraqi Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research. The authors thank Dr. Khaldoun Al-Bassam and Dr. Rafa’a Z. Jassim for their support and advices to improve the research quality. Thanks are also extended to Dr. Hussein Jassas (GEOSURV-IRAQ) and Dipl. Eng. Wael Kanoua (AL Baath University) for their valuable discussion.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geology InstituteTU Bergakademie FreibergFreibergGermany
  2. 2.Iraq Geological SurveyBaghdadIraq
  3. 3.Department of Geology, College of ScienceUniversity of BaghdadBaghdadIraq

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