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Abandoned Mines and the Water Environment in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hugh Potter



Abandoned mines are one of the most significant pollution threats in the UK affecting more than 5,000 km of rivers, as well as important drinking water supply aquifers. Thousands of these mines, some dating back to the Bronze Age, extracted coal, metals and other minerals. Mining-impacted rivers discharge some of the biggest loads of metals such as Cd, Fe, Cu and Zn to the seas around Britain. Many environmental quality standard failures for priority substances under the Water Framework Directive are in metal mining areas. The worst discharges from closed deep coal mines have been prioritised and 54 minewater treatment plants capture thousands of tonnes of Fe and other metals every year, protecting over 200 km of rivers and drinking water aquifers. Treatment is only in place at one abandoned metal mine. We are now prioritising the UK rivers most impacted by metal mines and developing a national remediation strategy. The effect of highly contaminated sediments on ecosystem health remains unclear. Sustainable passive technologies for coal minewaters are proven but new treatment systems are required for metal mine discharges, preferably with recovery of metals, energy and water. Abandoned mines are important reserves of biodiversity and industrial heritage sites including the tin and copper mining areas of the new Cornwall and West Devon World Heritage Site.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Potter HAB, Johnston D, Jones C, Rolley S, Watson I, Pritchard J

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Securing the Future and 8th International Conference on Acid Rock Drainage (ICARD)

Year of Conference: 2009

Date deposited: 07/05/2010

Publisher: International Network for Acid Prevention