How significant is atmospheric metal contamination from mining activity adjacent to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area? A spatial analysis of metal concentrations using air trajectories models

Larissa Schneider, Michela Mariani, Krystyna M. Saunders, William A. Maher, Jennifer J. Harrison, Michael Shawn Fletcher, Atun Zawadzki, Henk Heijnis, Simon G. Haberle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

6 Citations (Scopus)


This study investigated metal contamination from historical mining in lakes in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area (TWWHA) and surrounding region. The largest increase in sedimentation and metal contamination occurred ca. 1930 when open-cut mining commenced and new mining technology was introduced into the region. The geochemical signal of lake sediments changed from reflecting the underlying geology and lithology to that reflecting mining activities. The HYSPLIT air particle trajectory model explains metal distribution in the lakes, with those in the northwest region closest to the mines having the highest metal contamination. Lake metal concentrations since mining activities commenced are in the order: Owen Tarn > Basin Lake > Perched Lake > Lake Dove > Lake Dobson > Lake Cygnus, with Perched Lake and Lakes Dove, Dobson and Cygnus in the TWWHA. Metal contamination affected centres up to 130 km down-wind of mining sites. Enrichment factors (EF) for Pb, Cu, As and Cd are >1 for all lakes, with Owen Tarn and Basin Lake having very high EFs for Cu and Pb (98 and 91, respectively). Pb, Cu, As and Cd concentrations are above the Australia/New Zealand lower sediment guidelines, with Pb, Cu and As above the high guidelines in Owen Tarn and Basin Lake. This study demonstrated the legacy of metal contamination in the TWWHA by mining activities and the consequences of a lack of execution of environmental regulations by past governments in Tasmania.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)250-260
Number of pages11
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Mar 2019


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