INTRODUCTION The removal of heavy metals by natural adsorbent has become one of the most attractive solutions for environmental remediation. Natural clay collected from the Late Cretaceous Aleg formation, Tunisia was used as a natural adsorbent for the removal of Hg(II) in aqueous system. METHODS Physicochemical characterization of the adsorbent was carried out with the aid of various techniques, including chemical analysis, X-ray diffraction, Fourier transform infrared and scanning electron micrograph. Batch sorption technique was selected as an appropriate technique in the current study. Method parameters, including pH, temperature, initial metal concentration and contact time, were varied in order to quantitatively evaluate their effects on Hg(II) adsorption onto the original and pillared clay samples. Adsorption kinetic was studied by fitting the experimental results to the pseudo-first-order and pseudo-second-order kinetic models. The adsorption data were also simulated with Langmuir, Freundlich and Temkin isotherms. RESULTS Results showed that the natural clay samples are mainly composed of silica, alumina, iron, calcium and magnesium oxides. The sorbents are mainly mesoporous materials with specific surface area of <250 m(2) g(-1). From the adsorption of Hg(II) studies, experimental data demonstrated a high degree of fitness to the pseudo-second-order kinetics with an equilibration time of 240 min. The equilibrium data showed the best model fit to Langmuir model with the maximum adsorption capacities of 9.70 and 49.75 mg g(-1) for the original and aluminium pillared clays, respectively. The maximum adsorption of Hg(II) on the aluminium pillared clay was observed to occur at pH 3.2. The calculated thermodynamic parameters (∆G°, ∆H° and ∆S°) showed an exothermic adsorption process. The entropy values varied between 60.77 and 117.59 J mol(-1) K(-1), and those of enthalpy ranged from 16.31 to 30.77 kJ mol(-1). The equilibrium parameter (R (L)) indicated that the adsorption of Hg(II) on Tunisian smectitic clays was favourable under the experimental conditions of this study. CONCLUSION The clay of the Aleg formation, Tunisia was found to be an efficient adsorbent for Hg(II) removal in aqueous systems.