Light detection and ranging (LiDAR) and multispectral scanner (MSS) studies examine coastal environments influenced by mining

Charlie Kerfoot, Michigan Technological University
Martin M. Hobmeier, Michigan Technological University
Foad Yousef, Michigan Technological University
Sarah A. Green, Michigan Technological University
Robert Regis, Michigan Technological University
Colin Brooks, Michigan Technological University
Robert Shuchman, Michigan Technological University
Jamey Anderson, Michigan Technological University
Molly Reif, Joint Airborne LiDAR Bathymetry Technical Center of Expertise

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There are numerous examples of past and present mine disposal into freshwater and marine coastal bays and riverine environments. Due to its high spatial resolution and extended water penetration, coastal light detection and ranging (LiDAR), coupled with multispectral scanning (MSS), has great promise for resolving disturbed shoreline features in low turbidity environments. Migrating mine tailings present serious issues for Lake Superior and coastal marine environments. Previous investigations in Lake Superior uncovered a metal-rich “halo” around the Keweenaw Peninsula, related to past copper mining practices. For over a century, waste rock migrating from shoreline tailing piles has moved along extensive stretches of coastline, compromising critical fish breeding grounds, damming stream outlets, transgressing into wetlands and along recreational beaches and suppressing benthic invertebrate communities. In Grand (Big) Traverse Bay, Buffalo Reef is an important spawning area for lake trout and whitefish threatened by drifting tailings. The movement of tailings into Buffalo Reef cobble fields may interfere with the hatching of fish eggs and fry survival, either by filling in crevices where eggs are deposited or by toxic effects on eggs, newly hatched larvae or benthic communities. Here, we show that the coastal tailing migration is not “out of sight, out of mind”, but clearly revealed by using a combination of LiDAR and MSS techniques.