Windblown dust deposition forecasting and spread of contamination around mine tailings

Michael Stovern, Héctor Guzmán, Kyle P. Rine, Omar Felix, Matthew King, Wendell P. Ela, Eric A. Betterton, Avelino Eduardo Sáez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Wind erosion, transport and deposition of windblown dust from anthropogenic sources, such as mine tailings impoundments, can have significant effects on the surrounding environment. The lack of vegetation and the vertical protrusion of the mine tailings above the neighboring terrain make the tailings susceptible to wind erosion. Modeling the erosion, transport and deposition of particulate matter from mine tailings is a challenge for many reasons, including heterogeneity of the soil surface, vegetative canopy coverage, dynamic meteorological conditions and topographic influences. In this work, a previously developed Deposition Forecasting Model (DFM) that is specifically designed to model the transport of particulate matter from mine tailings impoundments is verified using dust collection and topsoil measurements. The DFM is initialized using data from an operational Weather Research and Forecasting (WRF) model. The forecast deposition patterns are compared to dust collected by inverted-disc samplers and determined through gravimetric, chemical composition and lead isotopic analysis. The DFM is capable of predicting dust deposition patterns from the tailings impoundment to the surrounding area. The methodology and approach employed in this work can be generalized to other contaminated sites from which dust transport to the local environment can be assessed as a potential route for human exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number16
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2016


  • Arsenic and lead
  • Dust collection
  • Dust transport
  • Forecasting
  • Mine tailings

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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