Characterization of particulate matter in the iron ore mining region of Itabira, Minas Gerais, Brazil

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Ana Carolina Vasques Freitas
Rose-Marie Belardi
Henrique de Melo Jorge Barbosa


Itabira has in its territory the largest complex of opencast mining in the world, located close to residential areas of the city. The air quality monitoring network installed in the city is the main source of particulate matter (PM) emission data. However, these air quality stations only cover the areas near the mines and do not measure fine particulate matter (PM2.5). Thus, a first field campaign was carried out to characterize PM in the city and to compare high volume data from air quality stations with the dichotomous air sampler data. Results of trajectories’ cluster analysis showed a long-range transport of aerosols during the sampling days from northeast (84% of the trajectories), east-southeast (12%), and south-southwest (3%) directions. Regarding the meteorological conditions during the sampling days, negative correlations were seen between coarse particulate matter (PM10) from mostly air quality stations and all meteorological parameters (but temperature). Results of the X-ray fluorescence and principal component analyses showed that the main trace elements in the coarse (PM2.5-10) and fine modes (PM2.5) are iron and sulfur, associated with emissions from mining activities, air mass transport from regional iron and steelmaking industry activities, vehicle emissions, local and regional biomass burning, and natural biogenic emissions. This work is the first assessment of source apportionment done in the city. Comparisons with other studies, for some large metropolitan areas, showed that Itabira has comparable contributions of sulfur, iron and elements such as copper, selenium, chromium, nickel, vanadium and lead.


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