Locally available tar sands were used for the removal of phenol and cadmium ions from their aqueous solutions. Batch sorption experiments showed that tar sands did not remove phenol from aqueous solutions, but they were effective in cadmium adsorption. Cadmium uptake was found to increase with an increase in initial concentration of the metal ions, temperature, pH and sorbent amount. On the other hand, the presence of ions such as sodium, Na+, suppressed the uptake of cadmium ions. Physical activation of the tar sands influenced the adsorption process negatively. The sorption process was relatively fast and the equilibrium isotherm data were well represented by the Langmuir model.