Hydrochemical assessment of environmental status of surface and ground water in mine areas in South Korea: Emphasis on geochemical behaviors of metals and sulfate in ground water

Duk Min Kim, Seong Taek Yun, Yuri Cho, Ji Hye Hong, Bayartungalag Batsaikhan, Junseop Oh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


In this study, hydrochemistry of ground and surface water collected around six metalliferous mines and one coal mine in South Korea was investigated to evaluate the status of mining-related impact and pollution. Groundwater system under the mine impact shows varying degrees of immobilization and retardation of heavy metals during the flow. SO4 2 − is shown to be the most reliable indicator of the mining impact on groundwater, as it reflects the degree of initial sulfide oxidation even after subsequent removal of metals; SO4 2 − is also less prone to sorption, precipitation, and geochemical reduction. A good correlation between the concentrations of SO4 2 − and the sum of Ca and Mg is observed, indicating that SO4 2 − represents the degree of dissolution of Ca- and Mg-bearing carbonates and silicates (i.e., neutralization of acidic water to circumneutral pH) by generated H+ that is proportional to SO4 2 −. The higher Zn/Cd ratios of ores and water than those of tailings and precipitates indicate a more preferential immobilization of Cd, and this ratio also reflects the inherent composition of each ore. The modified HPI (Heavy Metal Pollution Index) consisting of the measured concentrations and respective environmental standards of Fe, Mn, Al, Zn, Pb, Cd, Cu, As, and SO4 2 − is suggested as MPI (Mine Pollution Index) to overall reliably evaluate the status of mining-related water pollution. The plot of SO4 2 − versus MPI is very effective to identify the contaminated mine water and its evolution, including the source and the pathways consisting of immobilization (precipitation, sorption) and dilution of contaminants in groundwater system. This study shows that a careful examination of the relationship between MPI and SO4 2 − can be very useful to identify diverse geochemical processes occurring in groundwater affected by mine drainage.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)33-45
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Geochemical Exploration
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Dec

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Mine Reclamation Corporation funded by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, Korea . The authors gratefully acknowledge the helps of many students of Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory at Korea University and Prof. Man Sik Choi and his students of Chemical Oceanography Laboratory at Chungnam National University in monitoring well installation, field works, and data preparation. The completion of this work was supported by Korea Ministry of Environment (MOE) as “K-COSEM Research Program”. Constructive comments provided by anonymous reviewers helped to clarify and improve this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Behavior of metals
  • Geochemical indicators of mining impacts
  • Groundwater quality
  • Hydrochemistry
  • Mine drainage
  • Mine pollution index

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Economic Geology


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