Complexation of humic substances with goethite, hematite, gibbsite, and boehmite has been explained from a viewpoint of crystal structure of the minerals. Theoretical analysis of crystal surface structures revealed the following. (i) Residual charge carried by O or OH on surfaces of gibbsite is -1/2; on boehmite it is -3/2 or -1/2; on goethite it is -4/3, -2/3, or -1/3; and on hematite it is -3/2, -1, or -1/2. Cations adsorbed to neutralise these charges can form bridging links with humic acid; higher charges form stronger links. (ii) Surfaces of goethite, hematite, and gibbsite also contain octahedral sites in which one O/OH position is vacant. These may provide centres for the formation of strong coordination bonds. (iii) Such vacant octahedral positions are absent in boehmite. It follows that in gibbsite, cation bridging links would be weak and vacant octahedral sites would be the dominant bonding sites; in goethite and hematite, both cation bridging and surface coordination sites would be present; in boehmite, cation bridging would be the only strong bonding mode. Derivations from crystallochemical analysis are supported by experimental observations. Infrared studies also show strong OH involvement in boehmite complexation in contrast to the weakness of OH involvement in gibbsite complexes.