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Update of mercury emissions from China’s primary zinc, lead and copper smelters, 2000–2010

China is the largest anthropogenic mercury emitter in the world, where primary nonferrous metal smelting is regarded as one of the most significant emission sources. In this study, atmospheric mercury emissions from primary zinc, lead and copper smelters in China between 2000–2010 were estimated using a technology-based methodology with comprehensive consideration of mercury concentration in concentrates, smelting processes, mercury removal efficiencies of air pollution control devices (APCDs) and the application percentage of a certain type of APCD combinations. Our study indicated that atmospheric mercury emissions from nonferrous metal smelters in 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2010 were 67.6, 100.1, 86.7, 80.6 and 72.5 t, respectively. In 2010, the amounts of mercury emitted into atmosphere were 39.4 ± 31.5, 30.6 ± 29.1, and 2.5 ± 1.1 t from primary zinc, lead and copper smelters, respectively. The largest amount of mercury was emitted from the Gansu province, followed by Henan, Yunnan, Hunan, Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi provinces. Hg2+, Hg0 and Hgp emissions from zinc smelters were 25.6, 11.8 and 1.97 t, respectively. The emissions percentages of Hg2+ and Hg0 were almost the same from lead and copper smelters. The average mercury removal efficiency was 90.5 ± 52.5 %, 71.2 ± 63.7% and 91.8 ± 40.7% in zinc, lead, and copper smelters, respectively.


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