Remotely sensed hyperspectral and digital elevation data from southeastern Idaho are combined in a new method to assess mine waste contamination. Waste rock from phosphorite mining in the area contains selenium, cadmium, vanadium, and other metals. Toxic concentrations of selenium have been found in plants and soils near some mine waste dumps. Eighteen mine waste dumps and five vegetation cover types in the southeast Idaho phosphate district were mapped by using Airborne Visible-Infrared Imaging Spectrometer (AVIRIS) imagery and field data. The interaction of surface water runoff with mine waste was assessed by registering the AVIRIS results to digital elevation data, enabling determinations of (1) mine dump morphologies, (2) catchment watershed areas above each mine dump, (3) flow directions from the dumps, (4) stream gradients, and (5) the extent of downstream wetlands available for selenium absorption. Watersheds with the most severe selenium contamination, such as the South Maybe Canyon watershed, are associated with mine dumps that have large catchment watershed areas, high stream gradients, a paucity of downstream wetlands, and dump forms that tend to obstruct stream flow. Watersheds associated with low concentrations of dissolved selenium, such as Angus Creek, have mine dumps with small catchment watershed areas, low stream gradients, abundant wetlands vegetation, and less obstructing dump morphologies. ?? 2002 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.
Additional publication details
Mapping mine wastes and analyzing areas affected by selenium-rich water runoff in southeast Idaho using AVIRIS imagery and digital elevation data