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Abandoned mines, the water environment and a national programme of treatment in the UK

Lookup NU author(s): Dr David Johnston, Dr Hugh Potter


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Whilst contributing to our national prosperity, mining for coal, metals and other minerals has left a significant legacy of pollution in the UK. Abandoned mines affect the status of over 8% of our rivers and some drinking water supply aquifers. These unregulated discharges contribute half of the national load of some metals, notably cadmium, lead, and zinc, in our rivers. The Water Framework Directive requires us to address failures to meet good ecological status in our rivers, while the Mining Waste Directive has required us to compile an inventory of closed and abandoned mining waste facilities that are causing serious environmental harm. The Environment Agency and the Coal Authority are leading efforts to understand and manage the pollution from these sites. Discharges from closed coal mines have long been assessed and prioritised leading to the building and operation of many treatment plants; which now protect over 200 km of rivers and drinking water aquifers. We have identified and prioritised the UK rivers most impacted by metal mines and are developing a national remediation programme. Funding from Welsh Government and national government has allowed us to start detailed studies into the most impacted catchments and develop remediation solutions at priority sites.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Johnston D, Potter HAB

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Minewaters 2012: Understanding and addressing environmental impacts in the UK and beyond.

Year of Conference: 2012

Publisher: Geological Society of London