Assessment of Suspended Particulate Pollution in the Bhadra River Catchment, Southern India: An Environmental Magnetic Approach

K. Sandeep, Rajasekhariah Shankar,  Jagdish Krishnaswamy | 2010


Open-cast mining generates sediment in river systems at globally significant scales. One of the challenges in attributing measured sediment loads to upstream mining activities is establishing the source of sediments that are a mixture of natural and mining-based materials. The environmental magnetic data (mass-specific magnetic susceptibility, anhysteretic remanent magnetisation, isothermal remanent magnetisation and inter-parametric ratios) on 57 samples of suspended sediment from the Bhadra River in the Sahyadri (the Western Ghat) of India have been used in this study. Samples were collected upstream, adjacent to and downstream of Kudremukh, a mountainous and high rainfall site where the largest mechanised open-cast mine in south Asia was located. Graphical and multivariate analyses and modelling of the data show that on average ~29% of the river suspended load downstream of the mine is derived from mining and allied activities at Kudremukh although the mine occupies less than 5% of the catchment. The contribution of primary ore is the maximum (18%), followed by transitional hard weathered ore (7%) and weathered ore (4%). The model has done a fairly good job of unmixing; the sum of errors is <1 for 40 samples, 1–4,254 for five samples and >71,000 for four samples. Modelling of samples with small mass seems to produce large errors. This investigation demonstrates the utility of environmental magnetic data, which can be obtained in a simple and rapid manner, and the unmixing of such data in identifying the contribution of mining activities to the total suspended sediment load.