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Fast Elemental Screening of Soil and Sediment Profiles using Small-Spot Energy-Dispersive X-ray Fluorescence: Application to Mining Sediments Geochemistry

Volume 64, Number 9 (Sept. 2010) Page 1045-1053

Gonzalez-Fernandez, Oscar; Queralt, Ignacio

Elemental analysis of different sediment cores originating from the Cartagena-La Union mining district in Spain was carried out by means of a programmable small-spot energy-dispersive X-ray fluorescence (EDXRF) spectrometer to study the distribution of heavy metals along soil profiles. Cores were obtained from upstream sediments of a mining creek, from the lowland sedimentation plain, and from a mining landfill dump (tailings pile). A programmable two-dimensional (2D) stage and a focal spot resolution of 600 μm allow us to obtain complete core mapping. Geochemical results were verified using a more powerful wavelength-dispersion X-ray fluorescence (WDXRF) technique. The data obtained was processed in order to study the statistical correlations within the elemental compositions. The results obtained allow us to observe the differential in-depth distribution of heavy metals among the sampled zones. Dump site cores exhibit a homogeneous distribution of heavy metals, whereas the alluvial plain core shows accumulation of heavy metals in the upper part. This approach can be useful for the fast screening of heavy metals in depositional environments around mining sites.