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Riverine flux of metals from historically mined orefields in England and Wales

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Hugh Potter, Professor Adam Jarvis


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The flux of metals at the tidal limits of major rivers are an important metric of freshwater contaminant transfer to marine habitats, reported in Northeast Atlantic bordering countries under the 1992 Oslo-Paris (OSPAR) Convention. This paper presents an assessment of long-term OSPAR data for four trace metals (Cd, Cu, Pb, and Zn) using a range of spatial datasets to assess the broad distribution of metal flux and yield across England and Wales. Mine site records and geological and land use data are used to classify river basins into six classes. The bulk of metal flux to seas around England and Wales occurs from catchments containing extensive mineralization and a legacy of metal mining (52 % of the total Zn flux, 47 % of Pb, 39 % of Cu, and 48 % of Cd were associated with mined catchments). Catchment area, metal flux from point mine discharges at source, and extent of mineralization typically accounted most for variation in catchment outlet metal flux in stepwise multiple linear regression (SMLR). There are a number of small mining-impacted rural catchments contributing significant fluxes of metals to coastal waters. Of particular prominence are Restronguet Creek (drainage area 87 km2) in southwest England that discharges 176 t Zn/year and 18 t Cu/year and the Afon Goch Dulas (27 km2) in north Wales, which releases 20 t Zn/year and 9 t Cu/year. Although such exercises cannot directly determine the provenance of metals, comparison with metal release data and a review of catchment-scale studies suggest a critical role of mining-related contaminants in contributing to catchment metal export.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Mayes WM, Potter HAB, Jarvis AP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Water, Air, & Soil Pollution

Year: 2013

Volume: 224

Issue: 1425

Pages: 1-14

Print publication date: 10/01/2013

ISSN (print): 0049-6979

ISSN (electronic): 1573-2932

Publisher: Springer


DOI: 10.1007/s11270-012-1425-9


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Funder referenceFunder name
SC030136/14UK Government Department for Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency