Castromil is one of the Au mining areas in Portugal that has been abandoned since 1940. Due to the lack of regulation and environmental education, Castromil is now a residential area suffering from the considerable consequences of poorly regulated mining activities; tailings, shafts and adits are present. Geochemical data related to environmental studies in old mining areas frequently show extremely high values and very skewed distributions that need to be properly addressed. Agricultural soils from this region have high concentrations of As and Pb. In this study, the Box-Cox transformation and geostatistics were applied to study heavy element (As and Pb) concentrations in soils in order to characterize the hazard posed by them in the area. This provides a decision support tool to define the areas where remedial action is needed in light of the risks to humans and ecosystems and for contaminant migration. The results discussed here take into account the hazard-based standards for soils as target and intervention values. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.