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Mine water pollution in Scotland: Nature, extent and preventative strategies

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Paul Younger


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Scotland was one of the world's first industrialised countries, and has therefore also been one of the first countries to experience wholesale post-industrial dereliction. Water pollution arising from abandoned mines, particularly abandoned coal mines, is second only to sewage as a source of freshwater pollution nation-wide, and in many coalfield catchments it is the pre-eminent source. Most of the pollution is due to net-alkaline ferruginous waters emerging from deep mines. Scrutiny of records from 80 deep mine discharges reveals that iron concentrations in these waters are only likely to exceed 20 mg/l, and the pH to be below 6.5, where the discharge emerges within 0.5 km of the outcrop of the shallowest mined seam. The bulk of mature near-outcrop mine water discharges in Scotland have <50 mg/l total Fe, and concentrations >100 mg/l are only likely where a marine bed lies within 25 m of the worked seam. Where the nearest marine bed is more than 80 m above or below the seam, then the total iron will be less than 4 mg/l, and in most cases less than 1 mg/l. Net-acidic mine waters are far more rare than net-alkaline waters in Scotland, and are most commonly associated with unreclaimed spoil heaps (bings). Both net-alkaline and net-acidic discharges have detrimental effects on the hydrochemistry and biological integrity of receiving waters. Scotland has recently pioneered the use of pre-emptive pump-and-treat solutions to prevent mine water pollution, and has also experienced the successful introduction of passive treatment technology for both abandoned and active workings. Copyright © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Younger PL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science of the Total Environment

Year: 2001

Volume: 265

Issue: 1-3

Pages: 309-326

ISSN (print): 0048-9697

ISSN (electronic):

Publisher: Elsevier BV


DOI: 10.1016/S0048-9697(00)00673-2

PubMed id: 11227275


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