Delineating Areas of Past Environmental Degradation near Smelters using Rock Coatings: A Case Study at Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec

David W. Leverington, Michael Schindler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations

Abstract

Emissions of SO2 from smelters can promote formation of acid rain, which can dissolve siliceous minerals on exposed rock surfaces and promote the formation of silica gel layers within which detrital and smelter-derived particulates can become trapped. These processes of dissolution and entrapment can result in the formation of rock coatings that contain elevated levels of heavy metals. Between 1927 and 1976, the Horne smelter processed sulfide ore derived from the Rouyn-Noranda region and became one of the largest emitters of particulates and sulfur dioxide in North America, promoting the formation of coatings on nearby rock surfaces. The reflectance spectra of these coatings are relatively flat, with typical reflectance values ranging between ~5% at visible wavelengths and ~16% in the shortwave infrared. Absorption troughs in coating spectra are consistent with the presence of materials including opaline silica, olivine, pyroxene, hydrous phyllosilicates, and sulfates. Classification of Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager data indicates that rock coatings near Rouyn-Noranda comprise a total surface area of ~1.5 km2, nearly all of which is located within ~6 km of the Horne smelter. Remote sensing techniques can used to delineate the geographic extents of coatings near smelters, highlighting areas previously subjected to severe environmental degradation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number17364
JournalScientific reports
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018

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