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Heavy Metals Contamination in Mining Regions of Georgia


Heavy Metals in the Soil and Natural Waters of Mining Regions of Georgia and Development of Methods of Environmental Improvement

Tech Area / Field

  • CHE-ANL/Analytical Chemistry/Chemistry
  • ENV-WPC/Water Pollution and Control/Environment

8 Project completed

Registration date

Completion date

Senior Project Manager
Mitina L M

Leading Institute
Georgian Technical University, Georgia, Tbilisi


  • Iowa State University / College of Engineering, USA, IA, Ames

Project summary

Environmental protection is one of the most important problem for present. Necessity of working out scientific basis of decision-making process of the problem and find out approaches to it, not only as the level of declaration, but also on the base of concrete engineering decisions, is stipulated by the requirement of nowadays. Soil and water pollution in the region of mining industry is of prior importance for the world, as whole, especially, for such a small country, as Georgia. Due to the severe political, economical and social problem of Georgia, an occurrence, which is supposed to be become a reason of ecological catastrophes has been pushed into the background. In the first instance it refers to the vitally important ecological systems of atmospheric air, soil, natural water pollution, which are followed by negative consequence for human health and condition of environment. Topical question of the environmental protection of the important Industrial region of South-eastern Georgia is closely linked with functioning Madneuli mining complex, which maintains processing of copper-pyrites deposit and the ore concentration at Madneuli concentrating mill. Functioning of the mentioned complex in present social-economic situation is very important not only for Madneuli region, but also for Georgia. Production of Madneuli mining complex is in great demand at international market. It also employ 60% of local population.

On the other hand, deposit exploitation by quarry methods, which has been conducted for 30 years, by disregarding of established norms of environmental protection caused to formation of severe eco-geo-chemical situation in region, reflecting in over-pollution of natural water (surface and underground) and soil by heavy metal (Cu, Zn, Pb, Cd etc).

Systematic usage of underground and surface water, polluted by heavy metal, for whole water-supply and also consumption of plant of the polluted soils, is supposed to exert danger to human health of local population and will cause such diseases as: breakdown of central nervous system, variable intoxication, variability, anaemia, pneumonia, allergy, decomposition of bony tissue (data is represented by the Institute of Professional Diseases).

The following important mining region of Georgia is district of Lukhumi Arsenic Deposit, located on the Southern slope of the Main Caucasus Ridge, within the basins of the river Lukhumistskali and Sakaura. The mentioned region represents the constitutive part of the spillway basin of the Rioni river, the largest water-way of western Georgia. From the administrative point of view, deposit regards to Ambrolauri district of Georgia (Kvemo Racha). Industrial development of the production capacity of a deposit began in 30-es of the 20th century and lasted till the end of the last century. Mining and Smelting enterprise of Racha has been functioning since the outset of the exploitation on the base of Lukhumi deposit (at present Racha chemical plant). The economical activity of the mentioned enterprise is connected with the water discharge of waste, worked off on technologic cycle in the gorge of the river Lukhumistskali. Inflow mine waters should be added to these quantities of the sewage water in quite significant amount from the old prospecting mine working and from the presently acting mine pit. Draining the mentioned rivers with gorges, sewage waters, being carried exceeded arsenic concentration (maximum content – 28.2 Mkg/l, in opposite of average content 0.002 in the river waters of our planet), pollute water of the Rioni river with highly toxic chemical elements, which is used for drinking-water supply of populated areas of Western Georgia, as well as Kutaisi. Surface and Subsoil water washing Lukhumi deposit, also contains fixed amount of toxic-chemical elements – Cu, Sr, Cr, Ni etc. which aggravating eco-geo-chemical situation of hydrological network of the proposed region.

One of the main objects of research, aimed at implementation of proposed project is the District of Chiatura manganese deposit, timed to the sandy-clay and to the carbonaceous sediment of Oligocene. Development of the deposit has been carried out since the middle of XIX century. Works on ore output and concentration is conducted by Industrial Union “Chiatura Manganese”, where it functions the large enterprise of Zestaponi ferroalloy factory. The main water-way of the deposit is the Kvirila river, which flows into the Rioni river within the district center of Zestaponi. Pollution of this river with the waste of manganese industry is so high, that the river water is permanently black. Cleaning construction does not work in Chiatura and flotation water, enriched with manganese, spontaneously joins the Kvirila river and flows into the Rioni river. For this reason, a large quantity of sedimented dioxide of manganese has been stored in the mouth of the Rioni river of the Black Sea for a long period of deposit exploitation.

Within the Kolkhid lowland, filtrates of the Rioni river are widely used by local population for drinking and household water supply.

The main direction of the research is to study appropriateness and mechanism of heavy metal migration, particularly: transferring by underground waters, as well as carrying of dust with wind flows and areas of its fall out.

Beside it, key point of the proposed project is assigned to the elaboration of technical scheme for utilization of natural sorbents for purification of soil and water, which at least should lead to the significant improvement of environment.

To meet the task requirements, a working group is to be formed with highly qualified specialists of analytical chemistry, mathematical modeling, computer process, hydrogeologists, ecology and climate. Some of the participants took part in similar researches within the framework of “defense-related subject”.

The project meets the requirement of ISTC. The above mentioned specialists will use their experience and knowledge for the solution of a global problem – protection of environment.

While carrying out the researches, substantial work will be done for the systematization of the results of previous researches (including researches under the seal of secrecy) followed by numerous common chemical and micro chemical analysis.

With the purpose of research of appropriateness of heavy metals distribution in various ecosystems, mathematical modeling will be used.

Definition of methods and results with collaborators will make it possible to use the latest achievements and approaches.

The high attention will be paid to the precise arrangement of expedition works.

It should be noted, that in the sphere of ecological researches, group of scientists of Georgian Technical University have a great experience in exchange of opinion with Japan partners, particularly, with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), working on the composing of general plan on development of mining Industry of Georgia.