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TitleSize-fractionation of trace elements in dusty snow from open pit bitumen mines and upgraders: collection, handling, preparation and analysis of samples from the Athabasca bituminous sands region of Alberta, Canada
AuthorJaved, M BORCID logo; Cuss, C W; Zheng, JORCID logo; Grant-Weaver, I; Noernberg, T; Shotyk, W
Sourcevol. 2, issue 3, 2022 p. 428-440, Open Access logo Open Access
Alt SeriesNatural Resources Canada, Contribution Series 20220157
PublisherRoyal Society of Chemistry
Mediapaper; digital; on-line
File formatpdf
NTS74D; 74E; 84A; 84H
Lat/Long WENS-112.0000 -110.0000 58.0000 56.0000
Subjectsenvironmental geology; Nature and Environment; trace element analyses; trace element distribution; trace elements; snow; open pit mining
Illustrationslocation maps; photographs; histograms; plots; tables
ProgramEnvironmental Geoscience Sources
Released2022 02 04
AbstractA robust sample collection, handling, processing and analytical method was developed for reliable quantification of trace elements (TEs) in dusty snow. Experiments were conducted by spiking the snow and ASTM Type I water, with liquid and solid multielemental standards under both acidified (pH < 2) and unacidified conditions (pH ~ 6) for a time series analysis up to one month in the metal-free ultraclean SWAMP laboratory. For the "dissolved" concentration of TEs (<0.45 mm), except for Ag, all 39 TEs investigated were precisely quantified at low levels (10 to 30 ng L-1). Regarding particulate matter (>0.45 mm), there was a significant loss by entrapment to the walls of polypropylene bottles and syringes. Employing metal-free sampling protocols, snow was collected from five bogs in the Athabasca Bituminous Sands (ABS) region, one of the largest reservoirs of bitumen in the world, to determine the impact of airborne emissions from open pit mining and upgrading. The "dissolved" fraction of bitumen enriched TEs (V, Ni, and Mo) and potentially toxic TEs (Cd, Pb, Sb, and Tl) was low. For all the TEs, including the conservative lithophiles (La and Th), total concentrations in snow and in the dust extracted from snow were greater near mining activities, whereas microscopic analyses revealed a greater size, abundance, and variability of dust particles. The enrichment factors of TEs in dust showed insignificant enrichment near industrial activities (e.g., Pb EF ¼ 1). Furthermore, the results show that most TEs in snow near industry occur almost exclusively in the particulate fraction.
Summary(Plain Language Summary, not published)
During development of resources, contaminants from mining and processing of resources would be unintentionally released into the environment through water systems, air passages. When very fine particles with contaminants are air borne, they could be transported to regional or even global locations. However, most of the air borne particles would be scavenged down to ground by rain and snow as well as air dry-deposition after air coagulation into larger particles that become too heavy to be airborne. How may oil sand industry in Northern Alberta contaminate the environment with respect to trace metals? How much may the industry release trace metals into the environment? To answer these questions, we need a reliable and accurate method to take environmental snow samples and carry out an advanced sample processing in order to achieve sound results to evaluate contamination situation of the environment from the oil sand industry operation. This study aims to develop a practical, reliable and accurate method and procedure for field snow sampling, laboratory sample processing and instrumental quantification so that to evaluate the effect of the oil sand industry operation on the environment around the resource development region.

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