ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMICAL AND RADIOMETRIC SURVEY IN THE VICINITY OF ABU SKHAIR URANIUM MINE, NAJAF, IRAQ

Abstract

A field survey to investigate the environmental impact of Abu Skhair uranium mine, closed for more than two decades, has been carried out. The survey included total count radiometric measurements, soil, stream sediments, rocks, water and plant sampling. The area covered by this survey is about 1 Km2. All samples were analyzed for uranium, in addition to major ions in the water. The results revealed higher intensity of total count radiation around the mine opening accompanied by higher uranium concentration in soil samples. Both rapidly decrease to normal background values away from the mine. Stream sediments showed lower uranium concentrations relative to soil. Limestone fragments, left over from previous mining works at the site, showed normal background values, except for one sample, which may represent part of the excavated radioactive horizon. Surface water and groundwater samples showed variable concentrations of uranium, most of which are within the permissible limits for drinking water. All groundwater samples are with high salinity, contain dissolved H2S and not suitable for drinking. Plant samples (shrubs and small trees around the mine opening) showed variable uranium concentrations, generally normal, with higher concentrations in the roots. The results of this survey indicate minor and negligible environmental impact of Abu Skhair uranium mine on the surrounding area. However, in view of the high salinity of the H2S-rich groundwater in the area, it is suggested that the present wells should be perfectly sealed and the water of the springs diverted to specific drainage system and pools where they can be treated.