Tracing copper migration in the tongling area through copper isotope values in soils and waters

Jingwen Su, Ryan Mathur, Glen Brumm, Peter D’amico, Linda Godfrey, Joaquin Ruiz, Shiming Song

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Copper mining in Tongling has occurred since the Bronze Age, and this area is known as one of the first historic places where copper has been, and is currently, extracted. Multiple studies have demonstrated, through concentrated work on soils and waters, the impact of mining in the area. Here we present copper isotope values of 13 ore samples, three tailing samples, 20 water samples (surface and groundwater), and 94 soil samples (15 different profiles ranging in depth from 0–2 m) from proximal to distal (up to 10 km) locations radiating from a tailings dam and tailings pile. Oxidation of the copper sulfide minerals results in isotopically heavier oxidized copper. Thus, copper sourced from sulfide minerals has been used to trace copper in mining and environmental applications. At Tongling, higher copper isotope values (greater than 1 per mil, which are interpreted to be derived from copper sulfide weathering) are found both in waters and the upper portions of soils (5–100 cm) within 1 km of the source tailings. At greater than 1 km, the soils do not possess heavier copper isotope values; however, the stream water samples that have low copper concentrations have heavier values up to 6.5 km from the source. The data suggest that copper derived from the mining activities remains relatively proximal in the soils but can be traced in the waters at greater distances.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2661
JournalInternational journal of environmental research and public health
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • Copper concentration
  • Copper isotopes
  • Mining
  • Tongling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pollution
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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