Impacts of in-stream aggregate mining on the distributary channels of the alluvial fans of Tafí valley (NW Argentina).
Sampietro Vattuone, M.M., Peña Monné, J.L., Rodríguez, G., Medina, P.L., Vattuone, M.A. 2021. Impacts of in-stream aggregate mining on the distributary channels of the alluvial fans of Tafí valley (NW Argentina). Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 46(14), 2930-2945.
In-stream mining is a common aggregate mining practice around the world. However, the impacts of such practice are not always taken into account when the mines are established, and the environmental cost of in-stream aggregate mining is generally not assessed. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the impacts of aggregate mining conducted in La Puerta River (Tafí valley, Northwest Argentina), a dry-pit instream mine, by considering the geomorphological, geoarchaeological, and human effects. Multitemporal analysis of the area using remote sensors (aerial photographs and satellite images 1970–2020), high-resolution drone digital elevation models and orthomosaics (2018–2019), and an intensive survey demonstrated that the mining area grew exponentially between 2002 and 2020 under unregulated mining. As a result, this practice exerts great environmental impact, including channel section alterations and destabilization of riverbanks, soil loss, river profile changes, and the formation of lag deposits of discarded materials, thus increasing environmental hazard under unpredictable flows. Finally, this is a highly touristic area that has suffered substantial landscape degradation and irreversible archaeological damage.