A Landsat-based study of black rock coatings proximal to base metal smelters, Sudbury, Ontario, Canada

Kelly J. Malcolm, David W. Leverington, Michael Schindler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Past emission of metal-bearing particulate matter, sulphur dioxide (SO2), and sulphuric acid by base metal smelters in the Sudbury region led to widespread loss of vegetation, contamination of soils, and formation of black coatings on rock surfaces. These black coatings formed through the incorporation of smelter-borne particulate matter into the partly dissolved uppermost layers of siliceous minerals on exposed rock, and are characterized by high heavy-metal content. This study involved assessment of the reflectance properties of black coatings in the Sudbury region, and determination of the geographic distribution of coatings through supervised classification of reflectance data derived from a Landsat Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) image. Classifications involved the use of the Spectral Angle Mapper (SAM), Maximum Likelihood, and Feedforward Backpropagation Neural Network algorithms. The reflectance spectra of black coatings in the Sudbury region are relatively flat and featureless, and are characterized by reflectance values less than ~13% across the visible, near-infrared, and short-wave infrared. Spectral properties are similar to those of magnetite, a spinel-group mineral known to be present in Sudbury coatings. The presence of carbon-rich soot particles may be an important influence on the reflectance properties of coatings. SAM classification results are characterized by the widespread mislabelling of uncoated urban and open-pit sites as mantled by black coatings, and neural network results problematically mislabel some uncoated wetland sites as coated. Results generated by the Maximum Likelihood algorithm most usefully depict the distribution of exposed black coatings in the Sudbury region. The mapping of black coatings using remote-sensing methods can provide useful information on the spatial character of environmental degradation in the vicinity of smelters, and should be helpful in the monitoring of environmental recovery where emissions have been reduced or eliminated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3932-3960
Number of pages29
JournalInternational Journal of Remote Sensing
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 3 2015

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