Long-term impact of former mining activities on the marine sub-Arctic ecosystem in the Ivittuut area, Arsuk Fjord, South Greenland, was studied by transplantation experiments with the blue mussel Mytilus edulis. Measurements of metal concentration in mussels were conducted using atomic absorption spectrometry (flame AAS) and graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry (graphite furnace AAS). Uptake and release of Pb were documented to be slow processes. For mussels transplanted from the pristine Kugnait Bay to the polluted mining site at Ivittuut, a continuous accumulation throughout the experiments was found. Linear uptake rates of 5.86, 6.94 and 11.62 μg Pb month−1 for small, medium and large mussels were found for a 6-week experiment, whereas exponential uptake rates of 0.26, 0.20 and 0.28 month−1 were found for a 9-month experiment. It is estimated that the transplanted mussels will reach the same level as the resident population 12–16 months following transplantation. Mussels transplanted from the polluted mining site at Ivittuut to the pristine Kugnait Bay depurated only 7–21% of their original Pb content, and the release was within the first 10 days following transplantation, after which the Pb content remained constant.