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Gay Stamp Sand Project (LiDAR/MSS Studies): Mine Tailings Discharges Into Coastal Zones No Longer "Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind"
Due to high spatial resolution and excellent water penetration in marine and northern Laurentian Great Lakes waters, light detection and ranging (LiDAR), coupled with multispectral imaging (MSS), has promise for resolving key coastal features and clarifying environmental interactions. Previous investigations documented a metal-rich 'halo' around the Keweenaw Peninsula, Michigan, a consequence of historic copper mining. Grand (Big) Traverse Bay offers an excellent example of mine tailings that progressively spread from an original discharge site. Between 1901-1932, two stamp mills (Mohawk and Wolverine) released 22.5 million metric tonnes of tailings into a single pile off Gay into the bay. Waste rock has dispersed along an extensive stretch of shoreline, destroying benthic invertebrate communities, encroaching upon critical fish breeding grounds, damming stream outlets, intercepting wetlands and contaminating recreational beaches. In the bay, Buffalo Reef is a productive spawning area for lake trout and whitefish essential for commercial and recreational fishing (producing an estimated 35% of the Keweenaw Bay catch). Stamp sand movement into Buffalo Reef spawning grounds compromises normal deposition and hatching of fish eggs by: 1) physically burying cobble and boulder fields, and 2) having toxic effects on food webs and larvae. Here we utilize multiple LiDAR and MSS over-flights, field sampling (ROV, Ponar), and hydrodynamic modeling to quantify tailings spread and environmental impacts.
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