Adsorption of Co(II) ions from aqueous sepiolite suspensions has been systematically investigated as a function of several variables including activation conditions, solid to liquid ratio, pH and temperature. The results are analyzed to identify the mechanism of cobalt uptake by sepiolite. Both abstraction and real adsorption isotherms were constructed to isolate the precipitation of cobalt from the real adsorption. Also, for the first time a plausible correlation between the released Mg (II) ions from sepiolite matrix and those adsorbed Co (II) ions is made. A one to one ion exchange mechanism is found to describe the results. The data obtained from adsorption isotherms at different temperatures were fitted to various adsorption models to calculate thermodynamic quantities such as the free energy of adsorption, heat of adsorption and entropy of adsorption. The thermodynamic data indicate that Co (11) adsorption onto sepiolite is entropically driven and characterized by physical adsorption. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.