Study Highlights Sustainable Utilization of Underground Brine Resources

In a recent article published in Scientific Reports, researchers from…

In a recent article published in Scientific Reports, researchers from China investigated the dynamic characteristics and evolution laws of underground brine in the Mahai Salt Lake within the Qaidam Basin, addressing the critical need for understanding the impact of mining activities on groundwater resources.

underground salt mine, brine

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Underground brine is a valuable mineral resource with applications in various industries, including agriculture and manufacturing. However, the exploitation of underground brine through mining activities can have significant environmental implications, affecting groundwater quality and storage dynamics.

Understanding the impact of mining on brine composition, porosity, and evolution is crucial for ensuring the long-term sustainability of brine resources. Moreover, the unique geological characteristics of Salt Lake environments, such as the Qaidam Basin, present resource extraction and conservation challenges. The complex interplay between mineral dissolution, freshwater displacement, and ion exchange processes necessitates a comprehensive study to elucidate the evolution laws of underground brine during the mining process.

The Current Study

The research focused on Mahai Salt Lake in the Qaidam Basin, a region known for its significant groundwater resources and unique geological characteristics. Sampling points were strategically selected to capture the variations in underground brine chemistry at different stages of exploitation. Pre-mining points were concentrated in the southeast, mid-mining points in the north, and late-mining points evenly distributed in the north and east of the study area. The distribution of sampling points aimed to cover a wide geographic area to ensure comprehensive data collection.

Water chemistry data collected from three distinct periods – early stage (1998), mid-term (2002), and late stage (2009) of shallow brine extraction – were collected and analyzed. A total of 168 water chemistry data points were obtained. The data collection process involved rigorous sampling techniques to ensure accuracy and representativeness. Various analytical methods, including correlation analysis, ion ratio analysis, and statistical techniques, were employed to study the changes in the chemical parameters of brine.

The chemical analysis focused on key parameters, such as calcium ion (Ca2+), sodium ion (Na+), chloride ion (Cl), sulfate ion (SO42-), and other relevant ions present in the brine samples. Ion concentration measurements were conducted using standard analytical techniques to determine ion content variations at different mining stages.

Porosity measurements assessed the changes in underground brine storage space and transmission channels during mining. The porosity variations were analyzed in conjunction with changes in Ca2+ content to understand their interplay and impact on brine mineralization. Porosity data were collected using established geophysical methods and analyzed to determine the correlation between porosity changes and brine evolution dynamics.

Statistical methods, such as regression, variance, and correlation analyses, were applied to interpret the data and derive meaningful insights. The study aimed to identify patterns, trends, and relationships in the dataset, providing a quantitative basis for understanding the evolution laws of underground brine in Mahai Salt Lake. Stringent quality control measures were implemented throughout the data collection and analysis process to ensure the reliability and accuracy of the results.

Results and Discussion

The study reveals significant changes in the Ca2+ concentration during the mining process. Initially, areas with Ca2+ concentration exceeding 800 mg/L were distributed in the northwest and southeast, but this decreased significantly during mid-term mining. The Ca2+ concentration was generally lower than 300 mg/L in the later stages. Contrary to normal groundwater evolution, the overall trend showed decreased Ca2+ concentration in underground brine.

The analysis of changes in chemical parameters, porosity variations, and ion concentrations sheds light on the impact of freshwater displacement on brine mineralization and storage dynamics. Factors such as mineral dissolution and the mixing effect of introducing lighter lake water contribute to the observed changes in ion concentration. The study provides insights into the mechanisms influencing the evolution of underground brine under mining conditions.


In conclusion, the study on the dynamic characteristics and evolution laws of underground brine in Mahai Salt Lake during the mining process provides valuable insights into the complex interplay between mining activities and groundwater chemistry. By investigating the mechanisms of salt release in saline water-bearing media under mining conditions, this research contributes to a deeper understanding of the sustainable utilization of underground brine resources.

The findings highlight the importance of considering the long-term effects of mining activities on groundwater quality and porosity evolution. The observed decrease in calcium ion concentration and changes in brine composition underscores the need for careful management strategies to mitigate potential environmental impacts.

Furthermore, the study emphasizes the significance of integrating geological, hydrochemical, and geophysical data to comprehensively assess the dynamic characteristics of underground brine. It also provides a scientific basis for the rational development and utilization of brine resources in salt lake environments, facilitating sustainable mining practices and resource management strategies.

Journal Reference

Kong, Z., Wang, G., Li, Q. et al. (2024). Dynamic characteristics and evolution laws of underground brine in Mahai salt lake of Qaidam Basin during mining process. Scientific Reports 14, 10778 (2024).

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