Current SGS strategic programs in Environmental Geology are concentrated on mapping the hazards associated with natural radioactivity. The mapping is based largely on existing airborne radiometric surveys carried out in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s that were originally intended to support mineral exploration and geologic mapping objectives. Re-interpretation of this data, supplemented by new ground checking by a portable gamma-ray spectrometer in selected areas, is being used to produce maps showing potential dose levels and the magnitude of the associated hazards.
A key aim of the department is to raise public awareness of the occurrence and significance of low-level radioactivity, ionizing radiation and electromagnetic fields in the environment. An educational citizen’s guide to radon is currently in production and similar publications on other themes are planned for the future.
Services to the community
The Environmental Geology Department offers a wide range of services in environmental hazard detection, impact assessment and remediation. These include:
• Mapping and impact assessment of soil and
groundwater contamination from fuel leakages and
• Impact assessments of existing and proposed
mining activities to help clients satisfy regulatory
requirements (in collaboration with the SGS Mining
• Source, pathway and receptor studies of hazardous
liquid and solid waste sites to assist with site plan
ning, management and regulatory functions.
• Environmental and indoor radon detection and
• Metering and dosage assessments for radioactivity,
electromagnetic fields (microwaves, cell phone
transmitters etc.) and extremely low frequency
Disposal of liquid waste, Jeddah.
Studies to assess the environmental impact
of the rock wool insulation industry.
(Report No. SGS-TR-2005-5)
Natural radioactivity map of Saudi Arabia
Rocks containing Uranium, Thorium and Potassium minerals are a major contributor to background environmental radioactivity. This project is producing zonation maps showing levels of natural radioactivity in the Kingdom, using radiometric survey data from earlier surveys.
The project is proceeding by converting earlier spectral and non-spectral data and maps into a digital format. Detailed ground geophysical studies are carried out in selected areas to determine the relationship between radio-element concentrations and lithologic characteristics. The maps will be used to compute radioactive dose levels that show the magnitude of risk to human populations, and to provide a natural baseline for assessment of man-made radiological contamination. The maps and associated GIS will also have applications for mineral exploration and structural mapping.
GR-320 EnviSpec portable gamma ray spectrometer.
Sources of environmental radioactivity.
Dosimetry map for selected urban area
Our current projects are:
i) Natural radioactivity map of Saudi Arabia and
ii) Radon potential maps of Saudi Arabia.
Radon potential maps of Saudi Arabia
This project is constructing maps at a scale of 1:2,000,000 for the Arabian Shield terrain and at a scale of 1:4,000,000 for the cover rocks and unconsolidated deposits terrains, showing the potential for concentrations of radon gas in the Kingdom. Radon is a colorless, odorless, radioactive gas produced by the spontaneous decay of Uranium. Radon comes second only to smoking as the most frequent cause of lung cancers. It is produced by Uranium-bearing rocks, and can seep through the ground and into buildings via pathways formed by faults, fractures and permeable sediments. Building stones containing Uranium minerals are also a significant source of environmental radon.
Two maps have been produced, one covering the Arabian Shield and a second covering the Phanerozoic rocks. The project is using GIS to correlate existing radiometric survey data with the underlying geology to map both radon source rocks and pathways for seepage. Ground radiometric surveys are conducted to fill gaps in data coverage and verify the predictions of radon potential arising from the GIS analysis. The radon potential zonation used on the maps will link directly to appropriate community action to monitor radon in buildings and introduce building codes.
Preliminary geological radon potential map for the
Arabian shield, KINGDOM OF SAUDI ARABIA
Scale 1:2,000,000 (restricted data).