African Journal of
Environmental Science and Technology

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Environ. Sci. Technol.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0786
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJEST
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 945

Full Length Research Paper

Assessment of radiological risk from the soils of artisanal mining areas of Anka, North West Nigeria

Mbet Amos Akpanowo
  • Mbet Amos Akpanowo
  • Department of Radiological Safety, Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Abuja, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar
Ibrahim Umaru
  • Ibrahim Umaru
  • Department of Physics, Faculty of Natural and Applied Science, Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nasarawa, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar
Shekwonyadu Iyakwari
  • Shekwonyadu Iyakwari
  • Department of Geology, Faculty of Science, Federal University Lafia, Lafia, Nasarawa, Nigeria.
  • Google Scholar


  •  Received: 11 April 2019
  •  Accepted: 06 June 2019
  •  Published: 31 August 2019

 ABSTRACT

Assessment of radiological risk was carried out on twenty soil samples collected from agricultural, mining and mine processing areas in Anka, Zamfara State, North Western Nigeria. The measurement of activity concentration of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K was performed using the gamma-ray spectrometer equipped with a high purity germanium detector. The values of the activity concentration of 226Ra ranged from 24.69±4.26 to 82.20±15.62 Bqkg-1, with a mean of 47.06±14.01 Bqkg-1; 232Th ranged from 22.52±3.44 to 159.47±16.81 Bqkg-1, with a mean of 75.97±9.11; while 40K ranged from 27.20±8.03 to 542.64±156.93 Bqkg-1, with a mean of 216.02±62.37 Bqkg-1. The concentration of the Radium equivalent in the study area ranged from 60.41 to 307.30 Bqkg-1, with mean value of 172.33 Bqkg-1. The absorbed dose rate in air was calculated and the values ranged between 26.80 and 135.02 nGyh-1, with a mean of 76.64 nGyh-1. The external hazard index was computed and the values ranged from 0.163 to 0.830, with a mean of 0.465. This value is within the safe limit of 1. The annual effective dose rate was calculated from the activity concentration with the minimum value of 32.87 µSvy-1, while the maximum was 165.58 µSvy-1, with a mean of 93.99 µSvy-1, which is higher than the world average of 80 µSvy-1 but less than the recommended annual effective dose safe limit of 1 mSvy-1. Therefore, the soil does not constitute radiological threat to the local population in the environment.

 

Key Words: Anka, artisanal mining, radioactivity, radiological, radionuclide, soil.


 INTRODUCTION

Naturally occurring radionuclides within certain environmental matrix are able to assume hazardous radiological proportions as the activity concentrations of radioactive materials in the Earth’s environment vary according  to  the  geological  formation.  This   is   largely responsible for the uneven distribution of radionuclides and natural resources in the earth environment. The soil serves as a means of migration for transportation of radionuclides to the environment, it is considered the principal indicator to the radiological contamination in  the in the environment (Elsaman et al., 2018).
 
A huge occurrence of about forty to fifty various types of untapped sub-terrain resources buried under the soil in Nigeria has been reported (Merem et al., 2017). Anka, is noted for crude mineral mining and processing by artisans alongside farming and cattle rearing (Salisu et al., 2016; Plumlee et al., 2013). Minerals, such as gold, copper, lead and zinc are mined and pre-processed in Anka and environs. These minerals deposits exist in alluvial and eluvia forms, with some occurring as vein within the meta-sediments of the area. Anka came under the radar following the discovery of rise in ill health and mortality rates amongst children in the isolated communities by health workers in the area. Investigation by Lo et al., (2012), suggested that the mining and processing of lead-rich ore inside villages in Anka led to soil contamination and that the polluted soil and ore dust were probably the main sources of lead exposure affecting children resident in ore-processing villages.
 
The environment where artisanal mining and processing activities are carried out is considered a major source of exposure to varying degrees of ionizing radiation. This radiation emanates from natural radionuclides present in rocks, soils, plants and water bodies and mining and mineral processing increase the concentration of the end products. The measurement of gamma radiation dose from environmental sources is of significance because radiation of natural origin is the principal contributing factor to the external dose globally (UNSCEAR, 1988).
 
Therefore, as the spread of radioactive elements in the earth environment is unequal and the concentration enhanced during mining activities, the knowledge of their level of concentration and distribution within the environment plays a major role in radiation safety. This work seeks to evaluate the activity concentrations and absorbed dose from 226Ra, 232Th and 40K in the soils within artisanal mining and processing areas of Anka. It was recommended by Innocent et al., (2013), that periodic radiological assessment of proper radiation monitoring of the mining sites. Apart from complementing the previous findings, the result would be used to assess the radiological risk from natural radionuclides in the study area. 


 MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study area
 
With a population of 263,400 (Buba, 2016). Anka falls between latitude 11051′N and 12008′N, and longitude 5°51'E and 6°08'E. (Figure 1). However, samples were collected from mining and mine processing sites in Dareta, Abare, Dan Kampani and Daki Takwas. The Anka River is the main water body in the study area; it lies about one kilometer to the north of the town and numerous seasonal streams dissect the landscape, pouring into the major river, the Anka river (Figure 1). 
 
The geology of Anka is characterized by the Anka schist  belt  that hosts the lead mineralization, and the lead-copper-silver-gold poly-metallic association. Anka is well known for artisanal gold exploitation for several decades and the mineral is hosted by schists, phyllites and quartzites associated with sub-regional structural elements subsidiary to the Anka fault (Waziri et al., 2013).
 
 
Sampling technique and sample preparation
 
Twenty (20) soil samples were systematically collected within 50 m from mining and mine processing sites as well as agricultural land. The samples were collected at an average depth of 10 cm. The samples were transferred to the Material Science laboratory at the Centre for Energy Research and Training, Zaria, where they were prepared. The samples were dried in an oven at about 120 to 150°C and ground into fine powder, using agate mortar and pestle, made of 99% silica to avoid contamination.  The ground sample was sieved to 250 μm. 200 g of the prepared samples was packaged and transferred to the laboratory of National Institute for Radiation Protection and Research for laboratory analysis. The samples were weighed again, packaged and sealed in plastic cylindrical beakers, where they were stored for 28 days to allow for secular equilibrium between 238U and 232Th with their daughters, prior to the analysis.
 
Sample analysis
 
Sample analysis was undertaken at the National Institute of Radiation Protection and Research, University of Ibadan, Nigeria. Measurement of activity concentration of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K was carried out with the gamma-ray spectrometer equipped with a high purity germanium (HPGe) detector enclosed in a 10 cm cylindrical multilayer graded shield. The application of this method is based on the secular equilibrium between uranium and thorium with their daughter isotopes. Prior to the sample analysis, the background gamma radiation at the laboratory was measured with an empty sample container under similar environmental conditions. The value was later subtracted during the computation of the activity concentration.
 
Data analysis
 
Activity concentration
 
Calculations of number of counts per second for the photopeak and activity concentrations of each detected radionuclides was based on the concept secular equilibrium being. The activity concentration in Bqkg-1 (A) in the samples was obtained as follows (Uosif et al., 2015).
 


 RESULTS AND DISCUSSION

The measurement of the radioactivity levels  of  226Ra, 232Th and 40K in soil samples collected from Anka was determined using the HPGe detector. These values including the Raeq, D, Hex and AEDR are presented on Table 1. The values of the activity concentration of 226Ra ranged from 17.99±1.24 (Abare) to 75.38±16.72 (Dareta) Bqkg-1, with a mean of 41.60±11.06Bqkg-1.
 
232Th ranged from 22.52±3.44 Bqkg-1 (Abare) to 362.30±57.52 Bqkg-1 (Dareta), with a mean of 151.15±21.09; while 40K ranged from 27.20±8.03 (Abare) to 1052.34±305.67Bqkg-1 (Dareta), with a mean of 380.34±116.41Bqkg-1.
 
A summary of the activity concentraction of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K is presented in Figure 2. Dareta accounted for the highest concentrations of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K while Abare recorded the least values. Analysing the results obtained in this study, the mean activity concentrations for 226Ra and 232Th are higher than the world average of 35 Bqkg-1 and 30 Bqkg-1, respectively (UNSCEAR, 2000).  
 
The mean activity concentration of 40K is lower than the world average of 400 Bqkg-1 (UNSCEAR, 2000). This generally suggests that the radioactivity concentration in the study area is higher than the world average.
 
The Raeq in the study area ranges from 60.41 to 635.22 Bqkg-1, with mean value of 273.10 Bqkg-1, which falls below    the    permissible    limit    of   370  Bqkg-1   set   by Organization of Economic Cooperation Development (Miah et al., 2012).  
 
 
 
The D in air values ranged between 23.05±2.99 nGyh-1 and 297.54±55.21nGyh-1, with a mean of 121.78±21.89 nGyh-1. This value is higher than the world average value of 60 nGyh-1(UNSCEAR, 2000), which indicates that the dose from the study area is higher than most places in the world.
 
The external hazard index values ranged from 0.163 to 1.715, with a mean of 0.737, which is less than the recommended limit of 1 (UNSCEAR, 2000). Generally, the radiation hazard in the study region can be assumed to be lower than the recommended limit but not insignificant as 33% of the sites showed high radiation hazard indices. The annual effective dose rate was calculated from the soil samples with the minimum value of 32.87 µSvy-1. while the maximum was 338.81 µSvy-1, with a mean of 149.29 µSvy-1, which is higher than the world average of 80 µSvy-1. This is less than 1 mSvy-1, the limit on dose from public exposure.
 
Comparison of natural radioactivity levels in soils of Anka with those obtained from other studies within and outside Nigeria
 
A comparison of activity concentration of 226Ra, 232Th, 40K and Raeq from different studies around the world and the present study has been carried out and is summarized on Table 2. For 226Ra (47.06±14.01 Bqkg-1), the minimum average concentration was recorded in Utagunmodi, Nigeria (Ademola et al., 2013) while the maximum average value of 102.08±3.96 Bqkg-1 obtained was reported in Kedah, Malaysia (Alzubaidi et al., 2016).
 
The minimum average concentration of 232Th of 11.41±3.28 Bqkg-1 was recorded at Suez Canal region, Egypt (Fares et al., 2017) and the maximum average of 155.36 Bqkg-1 was recorded in Kaduna, Nigeria (Gyuk et al., 2017). For 40K, the minimum value of 102.8 ± 12.1 Bqkg-1 was reported in Utagunmodi, Nigeria while the maximum average of 505.1 ± 7.1 Bqkg-1 was reported in Utagunmodi, Nigeria (mining site) Ademola et al., 2013).
 
 
A comparison of the average radium equivalent activity Raeq indicates that the minimum average of 33.241 Bqkg-1 was reported in Balad, Iraq [(Assie et al., 2016) whereas the maximum average of 458.785 Bqkg-1 was reported in Kedah, Malaysia (Alzubaidi et al., 2016).
 
Table 3 summarizes the comparison of absorbed dose, external hazard index and the annual effective dose rate obtained from different studies. The average minimum absorbed dose and external hazard index were recorded in Balad, Iraq with values of 17.558 nGyh-1 and 0.089 respectively (Assie et al., 2016). However, Kedah, Malaysia Alzubaidi (2016) recorded the average maximum value of 141.62 nGyh-1 for absorbed dose and 0.859 for external hazard index. The average minimum of annual effective dose rate of 30 µSvy-1 was recorded in Suez Canal  region,  Egypt   (Fares,  2017)  while   the  average maximum of 439.73 µSvy-1 was recorded for mining site, Utagunmodi, Nigeria (Ademola et al., 2013). The result by the latter is however not consistent with those obtained from other studies considering the level of activity concentration of natural radionuclides from which the annual effective dose rate is evaluated. The values would have been much lower and consistent with the result of this study.
 

 


 CONCLUSION

The gamma-ray spectrometer equipped with a HPGe detector was used in the measurement of activity concentration of 226Ra, 232Th and 40K from soil samples in Anka,   Zamfara  State.  From  the  result  obtained  in  the study area, the mean activity concentrations for 226Ra and 232Th are higher than the world average of 35 Bqkg-1 and 30 Bqkg-1, respectively (UNSCEAR, 2000). Generally, the radioactivity levels recorded in this study is higher than those recorded by Ademola et al. (2013) and Innocent et al. (2013) (Table 2). Hence, the increase in artisanal mining activities in the study area is increasing the external gamma radiation. The mean external hazard index was evaluated to be 0.737, which is less than the limit of 1. The annual effective dose rate is less than the limit on dose from public exposure (1 mSvyr-1); this suggests that the risk of radiation hazard to humans and animals is insignificant. Hence, the soil does not constitute radiological threat to the local population in the environment.


 CONFLICT OF INTERESTS

The authors have not declared any conflict of interest.

 



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