Assessment of the natural sources of particulate matter on the opencast mines air quality

J. I. Huertas, M. E. Huertas, G. Cervantes, J. Di´az

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41 Citations (Scopus)


Particulate matter is the main air pollutant in open pit mining areas. Preferred models that simulate the dispersion of the particles have been used to assess the environmental impact of the mining activities. Results obtained through simulation have been compared with the particle concentration measured in several sites and a coefficient of determination R 2 <0.78 has been reported. This result indicates that in the open pit mining areas there may be additional sources of particulate matter that have not been considered in the modeling process. This work proposes that the unconsidered sources of emissions are of regional scope such as the re-suspension particulate matter due to the wind action over uncovered surfaces. Furthermore, this work proposes to estimate the impact of such emissions on air quality as a function of the present and past meteorological conditions. A statistical multiple regression model was implemented in one of the world's largest open pit coal mining regions which is located in northern Colombia. Data from 9 particle-concentration monitoring stations and 3 meteorological stations obtained from 2009 to 2012 were statistically compared. Results confirmed the existence of a high linear relation (R 2 >0.95) between meteorological variables and particulate matter concentration being humidity, humidity of the previous day and temperature, the meteorological variables that contributed most significantly in the variance of the particulate matter concentration measured in the mining area while the contribution of the AERMOD estimations to the short term TSP (Total Suspended Particles) measured concentrations was negligible (<5%). The multiple regression model was used to identify the meteorological condition that leads to pollution episodes. It was found that conditions drier than 54% lead to pollution episodes while humidities greater than 70% maintain safe air quality conditions in the mining region in northern Colombia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1047-1055
Number of pages9
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 5 Sept 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Authors acknowledge the financial support of the Mexican Council for Science and Technology—CONACYT , the State of Mexico Council for Science and Technology—COMECYT and the Ministry of the Environment of Colombia .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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