Mercury in coal ash and its fate in the Indian subcontinent: A synoptic review

Arun B. Mukherjee*, Ron Zevenhoven

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In the Indian subcontinent power generation is mainly dependent upon the thermal power units and coal is burnt as a fuel for the production of heat and electricity. In India, bituminous and sub-bituminous coals are used which contain over 40% of ash. At present, 80-90 million tons of fly ashes are generated from 85 existing coal based thermal power plants. Coal contains trace metals of which mercury is most toxic for humans and aquatic fauna. The problem of mercury in the society is not new, but in recent years the Indian subcontinent has gained the reputation of being "a dumping ground for mercury". This study focuses on mercury in fly ash and its releases to the atmosphere and soils cross the country. The utilisation of coal ash in India is also addressed although it is still in its nascent stage. About 10% of produced fly ashes are used in India whereas in Western countries its use is typically over 70%. Regulations from India's Ministry of Environment and Forestry should increase coal fly ash utilisation, although this would require that cost-effective new technology is put to use. As to the release of Hg from ashes disposed of in the environment, the scarce literature suggests that this is negligible or zero, and less problematic than wet or dry deposition of Hg from flue gases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)384-392
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2006
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Coal
  • Fly ash
  • India
  • Mercury
  • Uses


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