Potential local and regional impacts of particulate matter emitted from one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines
This study was designed to evaluate the atmospheric total suspended particle (TSP) and particulate matter (PM10) concentrations and temporal variability in one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines (El Cerrejon) located in northeast Colombia, during 2012–2016. The results showed overall average TSP and PM10 concentrations of 86 μg m−3 (CI95% 84–88 μg m−3) and 34 μg m−3 (CI95% 33–35 μg m−3), respectively, with the highest concentrations between March and August each year. A time trend analysis of the results revealed that PM10 concentrations in particular have significantly increased between 6.2 and 7.7% per year (CI95% 1.2–12.8% year−1) in several of the monitoring stations. Meteorological parameters were also evaluated. It was observed that NE winds with speeds above 2 m s−1 were significantly correlated with an increase in the concentration of PM10 for selected downwind sites, which suggested that coal mining operations are an important source of atmospheric PM in the area. Regional long-range atmospheric transport scenarios showed potential effects on neighboring municipalities and countries within 72-h transportation events. These highlighted the need to develop new strategies to control the emissions of PM from the local mining industry to comply with local and international guidelines and regulations, particularly when industrial expansion is planned for the near future and relatively large population centers are in the area, of which a high proportion belong to indigenous populations.
KeywordsParticulate matter Open-pit mining Temporal trends Cerrejon Colombia Long-range atmospheric transport
The authors thank the logistic support of the University of Antioquia (Universidad de Antioquia), The University of La Guajira (Universidad de la Guajira) and the Center for Environmental Science at the Faculty of Science, University of Chile (Centro de Ciencias Ambientales, Facultad de Ciencias de la Universidad de Chile). The authors gratefully acknowledge the NOAA Air Resources Laboratory (ARL) for the provision of the HYSPLIT transport and dispersion model for MacOS version (http://www.ready.noaa.gov) used in this publication. Data will be made available on request.
RER acknowledges partial support of Colciencias-Cerrejón joint program, Grant No. 1115-524-30465. MALG acknowledges support of National Commission for Scientific and Technological Research CONICYT/FONDECYT 2016 grant no. 1160617.
Compliance with ethical standards
The authors declare that they have no competing interests. The funders had no role in study design, sample collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
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