Global mining activities in Latin America have increased exponentially over the last decade. The present study aims to assess the historical impact of Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining activities (ASGM) in the Department of Antioquia, Colombia, a region characterized by increased mining development over the past century. Historical trends of heavy metals (i.e., Ag, Cr, Cu, Hg, Ni, Pb, and Zn) were reconstructed for the past century in a tropical wetland near the mining district. Results indicate that local mining operations did not have a significant influence in the area until the mid-20th century when metal concentrations began to increase and exceeded background values. The significant increase in both sediment accumulation rates and total organic carbon (TOC) content during the 1920s reflects the deforestation of the area due to the diversification of the economy (e.g. coffee cultivation, mining or animal husbandry). Both concentrations and accumulation rates of metals increased exponentially after the 1980s as a consequence of the reactivation of alluvial gold exploitation, reaching values that exceeded up to 2–5 times the background levels. The historical metal trends in sediments from Las Palmas wetland reflected the historical socio-economic development in Antioquia and can be used as a good proxy for evaluating anthropogenic impacts in this region.
- Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining
- Heavy metals
- Human impact