Analysis of Mercury (Hg): Cleanup of Abandoned Mine Lands

There are over 46,000 (and still counting) Abandoned Mine Lands identified in the US by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). As part of efforts to enhance water quality and promote public safety, the BLM has directed cleanup efforts toward these sites. The dangers of these sites not only lie in the physical danger involved when people enter these abandoned sites but also and perhaps more importantly, the impact the contamination has on the environment.


Handheld XRF is used in the cleanup of mercury and other heavy metals contamination at abandoned mine sites.  Despite being used for medical purposes as early as 1490 B.C., mercury (Hg), also known as quicksilver, has been determined to be a highly toxic element in several forms.  With heavy use in electronics, mercury mining flourished during wartime but has since been banned with the last mercury mine in the U.S. closing in 1992.  Many of these mines are abandoned and are still leaking mercury into the environment.  Several Superfund sites have employed the use of handheld XRF to aide in the cleanup of mercury contamination.  Talk to our experts to find out how the Bruker Tracer can expedite your mercury and other heavy metals cleanup efforts!


Handheld XRF can be used to profile contamination of mercury and other toxic elements for cleanup in the same manner in which they are used for mineral exploration or other efforts to remediate contaminated soils. By sampling in a grid form, one can quickly characterize the extent of contamination of a site.


The following are some of the advantages of using handheld XRF in cleanup of abandoned mine sites:

  • Quickly profile a site in-situ to get a basic idea of the plume of contamination saving weeks in  obtaining results from traditional laboratories
  • Prepare samples in the field by grinding, pushing through a sieve and packing into an XRF cup improves accuracy to the point of near lab quality results
  • Analyzed samples are not destroyed and a small percentage (5%) can be sent to the lab for confirmation as well as the confirmed data can be used for adjustments in calibration if necessary
  • Avoid sending samples with high concentration to the Lab

After contaminated soil has been removed, analyzing the remaining soil onsite can confirm whether data quality objectives have been met or if removal of more soil is necessary.  Mercury is typically a difficult element to analyze accurately, however Bruker's TRACER 5 series can be optimized by the user for greatest accuracy:

  • Adjust filter for optimum excitation
  • Alter the current and voltage to enhance performance for Hg analysis
  • Fine-tune calibration based on confirmed analytical data

For swift, accurate analysis to expedite your cleanup efforts, implement the use of handheld XRF.  Ask our experts how the Bruker TRACER can assist you with your cleanup needs!


Check out other applications for the TRACER: