An Assessment of Cumulative Land Cover and Water Quality Impacts of Mining on Ojibwe Treaty-Ceded Territories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota

EPA Grant Number: F13F51324
Title: An Assessment of Cumulative Land Cover and Water Quality Impacts of Mining on Ojibwe Treaty-Ceded Territories in Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota
Investigators: Cardiff, Scott
Institution: University of Wisconsin - Madison
EPA Project Officer: Jones, Brandon
Project Period: September 2, 2014 through September 2, 2016
Project Amount: $84,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2013) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Fellowship - Environmental Science , Academic Fellowships

Objective:

Large-scale metal mining has the potential to cause harmful environmental and social impact, including water contamination and degradation of areas of cultural importance. Assessing the cumulative impacts of past, present and potential future mining is important for understanding the risk of severe effects from multiple mines. This study will assess the cumulative effects of mining on land cover and water quality in Ojibwe treaty-ceded territories in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Approach:

The research will analyze the spatial relationship of water quality and land cover with mining in the treaty-ceded territories of the Lake Superior Ojibwe in Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Existing water-quality data for constituents potentially related to mining will be used, supplemented with additional sampling as needed. Mining impact will be identified using comparisons with reference watershed sites and patterns of water quality downstream from mines. Remote sensing analysis of aerial photographs and satellite images will determine the current extent of mining and extent of pre-mining land cover classes. The relationship between mining land cover and water quality in individual watersheds also will be examined. These analyses will allow the measurement of the probable effects of past, present and potential future mining on the extent of mining land cover change and affected water quality across the Ojibwe territories.

Expected Results:

Based on studies of large-scale mining in other regions, mining extent will likely correlate with water quality changes within a watershed. Given the relatively abundant mines and mine discharge locations in Minnesota and Michigan, land-cover change and water-quality effects of mining are likely to be extensive in those portions of the Lake Superior Ojibwe territories.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This research will improve understanding of the relationship between mining land cover and water quality and of the extent of the impact of mining on this region. The assessment of cumulative land cover and water quality effects of mining across the Ojibwe territories represents a key aspect of a potential broader study of cumulative impacts in those territories. It also will allow subsequent evaluation of possible influences of policy on the differences in the effects of mining between states and of the distribution of the effects of mining on particular communities and in sensitive areas. Finally, the assessment will provide information that is helpful to communities and decisionmakers who are evaluating proposals for new mining in the region.

Supplemental Keywords:

cumulative impact, land cover, mining