Gold mining is acknowledged as a principal source of environmental contamination, primarily due to the release of potentially toxic elements (PTEs) through tailings dispersion into adjacent soils. Such contamination leads to land degradation, pollution, biodiversity loss, and soil contamination, and subsequently impacts the food chain, human health, and soil ecosystems. This study evaluates the extent of PTE contamination in soils at artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sites within the Meiganga area of the Adamawa-Yade Domain, Cameroon. ASGM extraction processes from quartz veins in this area involve the removal of topsoil to access the ore. Comparative analysis of soil samples from three profiles within the mining zone were conducted to determine contamination levels using pollution indices: enrichment factor, geoaccumulation index, contamination factor and pollution load index. Results indicate higher concentrations of PTEs in soils from the mining area compared to the control profile, with notable contamination in the bottom slope profiles and B horizons, reflecting considerable metal accumulation. The contamination levels of PTEs substantially exceed background levels in the upper continental crust. The study attributes the elevated concentrations of PTEs not only to local mineralization but also to anthropic activities, particularly ASGM, which contributes to their enrichment, distribution, and mobility. This pronounced contamination necessitates immediate intervention, advocating for pollution control measures to address potential ecosystem and human health risks. It highlights the environmental toll of ASGM and underscores the imperative for sustainable mining practices and effective soil remediation techniques, including phytoremediation and soil replacement, to alleviate the adverse effects.

Supplementary material:https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.7195773

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