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Predicting temporal changes in total iron concentrations in groundwaters flowing from abandoned deep mines: A first approximation

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul Younger


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Discharges of contaminated groundwater from abandoned deep mines are a major environmental problem in many parts of the world. While process-based models of pollutant generation have been successfully developed for certain surface mines and waste rock piles of relatively simple geometry and limited areal extent, such models are not readily applicable to large systems of laterally extensive, interconnected, abandoned deep mines. As a first approximation for such systems, hydrological and lithological factors, which can reasonably be expected to influence pollutant release, have been assessed by empirically assessing data from 81 abandoned deep coal mine discharges in the UK. These data demonstrate that after flooding of a deep mine is complete and groundwater begins to migrate from the mine voids into surface waters or adjoining aquifers, flushing of the mine voids by fresh recharge results in a gradual improvement in the quality of groundwater (principally manifested as decreasing Fe concentrations and stabilisation of pH around 7). Alternative representations of the flushing process have been examined. While elegant analytical solutions of the advection-dispersion equation can be made to mimic the changes in iron concentration, parameterisation is tendentious in practice. Scrutiny of the UK data suggest that to a first approximation, the duration of the main period of flushing can be predicted to endure around four times as long as the foregoing process of mine flooding. Short- and long-term iron concentrations (i.e. at the start of the main period of flushing and after its completion, respectively) can be estimated from the sulphur content of the worked strata. If strata composition data are unavailable, some indication of pollution potential can be obtained from considerations of the proximity of worked strata to marine beds (which typically have high pyrite contents). The long-term concentrations of iron in a particular discharge can also be approximated on the basis of the proximity of the discharge location to the outcrop of the most closely associated coal seam (MCACS) and, thus, to zones of possible ongoing pyrite oxidation. The practical application of these simple predictive techniques is facilitated by means of a flowchart. Copyright (C) 2000 Elsevier Science B.V.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Younger PL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Journal of Contaminant Hydrology

Year: 2000

Volume: 44

Issue: 1

Pages: 47-69

ISSN (print): 0169-7722

ISSN (electronic): 1873-6009

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/S0169-7722(00)00090-5


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