Arsenic (As) is a naturally occurring constituent in low-sulphide gold-quartz vein deposits, the dominant deposit type for lode mines in the Sierra Nevada Foothills (SNFH) gold (Au) province of California. Concentrations of naturally occurring mercury (Hg) in the SNFH Au province are low, but extensive use and loss of elemental Hg during amalgamation processing of ore from lode and placer Au deposits led to widespread contamination of Hg in the Sierra Nevada foothills and downstream areas, such as the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta and San Francisco Bay. This review paper provides an overview of As and Hg contamination related to historical Au mining in the Sierra Nevada of California. It summarizes the geology, mineralogy, and geochemistry of the Au deposits, and provides information on specific areas where detailed studies have been done in association with past, ongoing, and planned remediation activities related to the environmental As and Hg contamination.

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