Estimating the Size of a Metal Anomaly Around a Base-Metal Smelter in Quebec, Canada, Using Peatland Data: A Monte Carlo Error Analysis

  • Graeme F. Bonham-Carter
  • Inez M. Kettles
Part of the Computer Applications in the Earth Sciences book series (CAES)


Sphagnum moss, a peat-building plant that receives nourishment from the atmosphere rather than from the soil, was used to estimate the spatial extent and deposition rate of airborne metal particulates emitted from a base-metal smelter. Measurements of Cu, Pb, and Zn in peat hummocks sampled within a 75-km radius of the smelter at Rouyn-Noranda in northwestern Quebec show a pattern of high values close to the smelter, decaying to a background level some 50-100 km away. Assuming a constant bulk density of peat and accumulation rate of the peat hummock surface, a model fitted to metal concentration data allows the rate of metal deposition to be calculated as a function of distance from the smelter. After subtracting background (assumed to be constant), integration of the model from the smelter to more than 200 km away yielded estimates of the tonnages of smelter-derived metals for the sampling year (1997) as follows: Cu-14 tonnes, Pb-20 tonnes and Zn-17 tonnes. These amounts represent 29%, 10%, and 30% of the metal emissions reported from the smelter for 1997. The “missing” metal was either incompletely trapped by the Sphagnum moss, or carried farther away by long-distance atmospheric transport. This paper examines the effects of errors from various sources to understand better the uncertainties in the tonnage estimates.


Bulk Density Metal Emission Monte Carlo Trial Tornado Plot Cumulative Frequency Plot 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Graeme F. Bonham-Carter
    • 1
  • Inez M. Kettles
    • 1
  1. 1.Geological Survey of CanadaOttawaCanada

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