Department Surface Waters - Research and Management

Heavy Metals in Arctic Rivers

High natural enrichments of metals (e.g. copper, zinc, gold, silver, platinum, lead) are found in Greenland. These metals are of economic interest, and licenses for exploring and extracting these metals are increasing. However, some of these metals can also be toxic, and therefore can be an environmental concern. Previous mining activity in Greenland has led to high localized metal contamination, the impacts of which are seen decades later.

This project will investigate metal concentrations in the rivers of southern Greenland to understand where and why concentrations are high. For example, natural sources, or direct (e.g. mining) and indirect (e.g. climate change) human impacts may explain high metal concentrations.
This project will also investigate metal transport into fjords to understand if metals are trapped and concentrated in coastal sediments. Glacier and sea ice retreat in the Arctic exposes more metal deposits and makes industrial extraction logistically and economically easier. Therefore, it is important to understand current metal levels and to set a baseline from which to investigate future change.





Swiss Polar Institute Exploratory Fund (Grant Agreement: SPIEG-2021-003)