The ability of lignite-activated carbon (LAC) and iron-impregnated activated carbon (FeAC) obtained from Golbasi lignite to remove cyanide ions from aqueous solution by adsorption was researched and compared with each other. The same process was applied also with commercial activated carbons which are in both granular (CAC-1) and powder forms (CAC-2). The morphologies, structures and properties of the activated carbons were determined by BET, XRD, XRF, SEM, zeta meter and magnetometer, respectively. The effects of various experimental parameters, such as initial cyanide concentration, pH, adsorbent type and particle size were researched in a batch adsorption technique at a temperature of 25 degrees C. BET surface area of LAC is determined as 921 m(2)/g. The obtained magnetic activated carbon has high surface area of 667 m(2)/g with 19 wt.% Fe3O4 coated and perfect magnetic separation performance. Langmuir model was found to be the best representative for cyanide-adsorption. The maximum monolayer adsorption capacities of LAC and FeAC are 60.18 mg/g and 67.82 mg/g at pH values of 7-7.5 and 64.10 mg/g and 68.02 mg/g at pH values of 10-10.5, respectively. Kinetic evaluation indicated that the cyanide adsorption onto the obtained activated carbons followed the pseudo-second order rate reaction. The diffusion-controlled kinetic models on the cyanide-adsorbent system showed that the removal rate was controlled not only by intraparticle diffusion but also by film diffusion. All experimental results point out that the LAC and FeAC are viable candidates for the removal of cyanide from water and wastewater. (C) 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.