Surface Water Characteristics in the Vicinity of Abandoned Mercury Mine Site in Puerto Princesa City, Philippines
Jessie O. Samaniego*, Cris Reven L. Gibaga, Alexandria M. Tanciongco,
Rasty M. Rastrullo, and Ma. Azileira V. Costa
Philippine Nuclear Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology
Quezon City 1101 Philippines
This study was part of an ongoing research project aimed to trace the pathways of possible mercury (Hg) contamination in an abandoned Hg mine site formerly operated by Palawan Quicksilver Mines, Inc. (PQMI) in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan. This mined-out area has been identified as the possible cause for the recent reported Hg poisoning cases among the residents living near the vicinity. To evaluate the water quality in the area, water samples collected from pit lake, river, coast, other nearby streams, leachate from landfill, and hot spring were analyzed for physicochemical parameters and heavy metal concentrations. Results showed that the physicochemical characteristics of freshwater (pit lake and river) and coastal water were generally within the water quality guidelines. Heavy metals in pit lake and river – except for Mn and Ni, Fe, and Mn – were measured within the guidelines, respectively. Hg concentrations in pit lake and river were not detected while low Hg concentrations were measured in coastal water near the jetty (0.001 mg/L) and in hot spring (≤0.0004 mg/L). A landfill near the pit lake was releasing partially-treated leachate with high total suspended solids (TSS) and heavy metal concentrations that contribute to the pollution in the area.
From 1953 to 1976, mining of cinnabar (HgS) ore – a naturally-occurring form of Hg hosted by the Tagburos Opalite formation in Central Palawan Island – was carried out by PQMI and produced about 2,900 metric tons of Hg (Gray et al. 2003, Williams et al. 1996). Currently, the open pit area is filled with water (Figure 1) and it is included in the list of abandoned and inactive mines in the country that is high risk to human health and the environment (Tetra Tech 2001). The site is approximately 3 km inland from the Honda Bay coast and situated within the catchment of the Tagburos River, which is a local fishery and recreational area. Approximately 2,000,000 metric tons of mine waste calcines were produced during mining and about half of these calcines were transported to Honda Bay to construct a jetty, which was used as an operational port for the mine (Gray et al. 2003). Today, the area is home to approximately 10,000 residents combined from Barangays Sta. Lourdes and Tagburos in Puerto Princesa City, including people . . . . read more
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