Ontario Ring of Fire Surface Water Susceptibility Analysis
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Since the discovery in the early 2000s of North America's first commercial chromite deposit in Northen Onatrio, dubbed the Ontario Ring of Fire (RoF), extensive mining development plans have been in progress. Chromite is used in the production of steel and is extracted using open pit mines that can leech toxic material and generate hazardous mining dust that contaminate soil and water. The proposed mining development is predicted to generate 32 million tons of waste rock in its 30 year lifespan, thus presenting a significant threat to the surrounding environment consisting of undeveloped boreal forest interspersed with swamps, marshes, fens and valuable peat land. This project seeks to determine the surface water susceptibility of the RoF region using GIS techniques developed by the University of Minnesota-Duluth Laboratory for Spatial analysis in the Geosciences, based on fact that areas that are more prone to runoff are capable of carrying suspended sediments, resulting in contamination of waterbodies. The analysis was conducted using four factors that contribute to overland flow: slope, distance to water, land cover and soil properties. The final combination of these factors showed that the region has low surface water susceptibility mainly due to the low slope percentage of the area and the majority of the landcover being open water, swamp, marsh and fen. The results indicate that contamination will not be rapidly transported away from the region through water bodies. Therefore, the areas immediately surrounding the mine may be at higher risk, as contamination will not be transported away and infiltrate the groundwater, contaminate aquatic life or be deposited in soils.
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