Abandoned mines and the water environment potx

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Abandoned mines and the water environment Science project SC030136-41 Product code: SCHO0508BNZS-E-P ii Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment The Environment Agency is the leading public body protecting and improving the environment in England and Wales. It’s our job to make sure that air, land and water are looked after by everyone in today’s society, so that tomorrow’s generations inherit a cleaner, healthier world. Our work includes tackling flooding and pollution incidents, reducing industry’s impacts on the environment, cleaning up rivers, coastal waters and contaminated land, and improving wildlife habitats. This report is the result of research commissioned and funded by the Environment Agency’s Science Programme. Published by: Environment Agency, Rio House, Waterside Drive, Aztec West, Almondsbury, Bristol, BS32 4UD Tel: 01454 62 44 00 Fax: 01454 624409 www.environment-agency.gov.uk ISBN: 978-1-84432-894-9 © Environment Agency – August 2008 All rights reserved. This document may be reproduced wi th prior permission of the Environment Agency. The views and statements expressed in this report are those of the author alone. The views or statements expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the views of the Environment Agency and the Environment Agency cannot accept any responsibility for such views or statements. This report is printed on Cyclus Print, a 100% recycled stock, which is 100% post consumer waste and is totally chlorine free. Water used is treated and in most cases returned to source in better condition than removed. Further copies of this report are available from: The Environment Agency’s National Customer Contact Centre by emailing: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk or by telephoning 08708 506506. Author(s): Dave Johnston Hugh Potter Ceri Jones Stuart Rolley Ian Watson Jim Pritchard Dissemination Status: Released to all regions Publicly available Keywords: Minewater, abandoned mine, Coal Authority, Water Framework Directive, non-coal mine Environment Agency’s Project Manager: Dave Johnston –Ty Cambria, Cardiff Collaborator(s): Coal Authority Scottish Environment Protection Agency Science Project Number: SC030136/SR41 Product Code: SCHO0508BNZS-E-P Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment iii Foreword For the past fourteen years our three organisations have worked together to deal with the one of the more visible pollution legacies of Britain’s industrial past. Our mineral wealth put this country at the forefront of the industrial revolution and has given us a rich heritage, but it has also given us a significant, difficult and long lasting pollution problem. The legacy of coal mining is now well understood. We have a long term programme of work which is dealing with historic discharges in order to improve and protect our inland and coastal waters. We are also monitoring and intercepting water that is still rising in more recently closed mines before it causes pollution or gets into our drinking water supplies. In this report you will see how we have approached the problem, what we have achieved so far, and what remains to be done. Other mines, particularly metal mines, have not been included in this strategic programme and remain a significant water management issue in many areas. Some of the largest discharges of metals into our rivers and the sea come from abandoned lead, copper and tin mines. Finding a sustainable treatment method for these mines, which does not compromise their value as part of our national heritage and biodiversity, is a continuing challenge. We are now working to identify which rivers are most affected by these non-coal mines and are looking for ways to manage the pollution. The valuable knowledge gained from our experience with coal mines will help us to continue working together to solve these problems. Colin Bayes Director of Environmental Protection and Improvement SEPA Tricia Henton Director of Environment Protection Environment Agency Ian Wilson Director of Mining Projects and Property The Coal Authority iv Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment Science at the Environment Agency Science underpins the work of the Environment Agency. It provides an up-to-date understanding of the world about us and helps us to develop monitoring tools and techniques to manage our environment as efficiently and effectively as possible. The work of the Environment Agency’s Science Department is a key ingredient in the partnership between research, policy and operations that enables the Environment Agency to protect and restore our environment. The science programme focuses on five main areas of activity: • Setting the agenda, by identifying where strategic science can inform our evidence-based policies, advisory and regulatory roles; • Funding science, by supporting programmes, projects and people in response to long-term strategic needs, medium-term policy priorities and shorter-term operational requirements; • Managing science, by ensuring that our programmes and projects are fit for purpose and executed according to international scientific standards; • Carrying out science, by undertaking research – either by contracting it out to research organisations and consultancies or by doing it ourselves; • Delivering information, advice, tools and techniques, by making appropriate products available to our policy and operations staff. Steve Killeen Head of Science Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment v Executive summary Abandoned mines are one of the most significant pollution threats in Britain. Our legacy of mining for coal, metal ores and other minerals dates back to the Bronze Age. Many thousands of mines have been abandoned and now discharge minewater containing heavy metals and other pollutants into our watercourses. Other more recently closed mines are still filling up with groundwater and will start discharging in the future. Nine percent of rivers in England and Wales, and two percent in Scotland are at risk of failing to meet their Water Framework Directive targets of good chemical and ecological status because of abandoned mines. These rivers carry some of the biggest discharges of metals such as cadmium, iron, copper and zinc to the seas around Britain. Seventy-two per cent of failures to achieve the cadmium quality standard in freshwater are in mined areas. In some areas, important drinking water supply aquifers are polluted or threatened by plumes of sulphate and chloride. The legal position in the UK is such that no-one can be held liable for the pollution from the majority of mines. It is only since 1999 that the operator of a mine has had any obligation to deal with the consequences of abandonment. The Environment Agency, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Coal Authority are leading efforts to deal with the problem. Between us we have made significant advances, mostly dealing with the problem from coal mines. We have built 54 minewater treatment plants, which prevent 2,500 tonnes of iron and other metals from entering our rivers every year, protecting over 200 km of rivers and drinking water aquifers. Most of these plants are owned and operated by the Coal Authority, which works with the environment agencies to prioritise the worst discharges from closed deep coal mines and identify future problems. Priority non-coal mines are metal mines in the ore fields of Wales, the South West and northern England which continue to cause pollution despite being closed for over a hundred years. No single body has the responsibility for dealing with them and we do not yet have a national strategy to tackle them. The Metal Mines Strategy for Wales has identified the most polluting sites in Wales and is working to identify sustainable treatment methods for them. In Cornwall, we have built the largest minewater treatment plant in Britain to deal with pollution from the Wheal Jane tin mine. This plant prevents 670 tonnes of iron and 150 tonnes of zinc from entering the Restronguet Creek each year. Our strategic approach to identifying and prioritising non-coal mines across England and Wales is set out in a joint project between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the Environment Agency. This project, along with a similar assessment carried out in Scotland by SEPA, will identify the water bodies most impacted by abandoned non-coal mines and the sites within them which are the source of pollution. The results of these projects will help to develop a national strategy. Sustainable technology for treating coal minewater discharges is well developed, but is not directly applicable to most metal mine discharges. Some advances, including pilot- scale treatment plants, have been made but we need to develop passive treatment methods which do not rely on costly technology or substantial raw materials and power. Abandoned metal mines are not only a source of pollution, they are a part of our national heritage and an important reserve of biodiversity. Many sites are designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest or Scheduled Ancient Monuments. The tin and copper mining areas of Cornwall and West Devon have been declared a UNESCO vi Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment World Heritage Site. This means that certain treatment methods cannot be employed; however, a collaborative approach may help to deal with the pollution threat. Further work is needed in many areas, including: • sustainable treatment methods for metal mines; • a national strategy for cleaning up pollution from abandoned non-coal mines; • new technologies to recover energy and other resources from minewater and treatment residues; • monitoring of minewater flow and quality at the catchment scale; • understanding the impacts of past discharges on sediment quality and ecosystem health; • developing remedial methods which are sensitive to industrial heritage and other protected sites. Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment vii Contents Foreword iii Science at the Environment Agency iv Executive summary v Contents vii 1 Introduction 1 2 The problem with old mines 2 2.1 Minewater chemistry 2 2.2 Diffuse pollution from minewaters 4 2.3 Contamination of soils and sediments 5 2.4 Ecological impacts 6 2.5 Economic impacts 7 3 Coal mines 8 3.1 The scale of the problem 8 3.2 What we have achieved so far 8 3.3 What is still needed 11 3.4 Case studies 12 4 Non-coal mines 15 4.1 The scale of the problem 15 4.2 What we have achieved so far 17 4.3 What is still needed 19 4.4 Case studies 19 5 Future opportunities and considerations 21 5.1 Treatment methods 21 5.2 Ochre reuse 21 5.3 Ecology 22 5.4 Heritage 23 5.5 Catchment investigations 23 5.6 Energy and climate change 23 5.7 Contaminated sediments and floodplain soils 24 6 Legislation and policy 25 6.1 Water 25 6.2 Land 27 6.3 Other European legislation 27 viii Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment References 29 Glossary 31 List of tables and figures Table 3.1: WFD water bodies impacted by abandoned coal mines (RBC2) 11 Table 4.1: WFD water bodies impacted by abandoned non-coal mines (RBC2) 15 Table 4.2: Pilot treatment plants at abandoned metal mines 18 Figure 2.1 Sources and pathways for mining pollution 2 Figure 2.2 Typical ochre deposition downstream of an abandoned coal mine, Aberbaiden Colliery, 3 South Wales Figure 2.3 Proportions of diffuse and ‘point’ mining-related pollution around the Cwm Rheidol mine, near Aberystwyth, Wales 5 Figure 2.4 Eroded tailings at a Cornish tin mine 6 Figure 3.1 Minewater treatment plants and priority coal mine discharges in Britain 9 Figure 3.2 Minewater treatment in a reedbed 10 Figure 3.3 Taff Merthyr minewater treatment plant, the Welsh National Indoor Climbing Centre and riverside park. 12 Figure 3.4 The Mousewater wetlands 13 Figure 3.5 Horden active treatment plant 14 Figure 4.1 River Basin Districts and river catchments at risk from abandoned mine pollution 16 Figure 4.2 The Wheal Jane Minewater Treatment Plant 19 Figure 4.4 Cwmrheidol No 9 Adit 20 Figure 5.1 Parys Mountain copper mine, a site of special scientific interest and a scheduled ancient monument 22 Science Report – Abandoned Mines and the Water Environment 1 1 Introduction Our lives and livelihoods depend on a clean, healthy water environment. We need water to drink, to grow food and to support diverse habitats. Many pressures threaten it and need to be managed to protect and improve the quality of our water. One of those pressures is our legacy of abandoned mines, though many may not have been worked for more than a hundred years. We have been mining for coal, metal ores and other minerals since the Bronze Age. Lead and copper have been extracted on an industrial scale since the Roman occupation. Mining output peaked in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries after the industrial revolution, when demand for coal and metal ores was at its highest. As a result, there are many thousands of abandoned coal, metal and other mines but only a handful that are still working. These sites are one of our biggest sources of water pollution by metals such as cadmium, iron, copper and zinc. Nine percent of rivers in England and Wales and two percent in Scotland are thought to be at risk of pollution from these sites, yet no-one is legally liable for the great majority of them. We have made significant progress since the last report on the subject (National Rivers Authority, 1994), but there is still a long way to go. This report, by the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Coal Authority, sets out the nature and scale of the problem in England, Wales and Scotland today, the successes achieved so far and the challenges that remain. This report will feed into future strategies to manage the problem and comply with our responsibilities under national and European law, particularly the Water Framework Directive (WFD). 2 Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment 2 The problem with old mines We have been mining for coal, metal ores and other minerals in Britain since the Bronze Age, and this has always been accompanied by pollution. Early prospectors relied on this pollution to find metals like silver and tin in streams and sediments. This long history is reflected in place names such as Redruth and the Red River in Cornwall, Afon Goch (red river) on Anglesey and the Ochre Burn in Midlothian. Pollution from mining activities is particularly difficult to deal with because it lasts for a very long time. Thirteenth century coal workings near Dalkeith in Scotland still discharge acidic, iron rich waters into the River Esk (Younger and Adams, 1999). Water pollution arises from the large-scale land disturbance associated with mining, whether it is opencast, deep mining, or spoil dumping. Many discharges from deep mines can be treated as point sources, but the quality of the water is due to reactions occurring across a large diffuse area that may cover tens of square kilometres. The main sources are the groundwater, which rises after pumping stops, and surface wastes. Figure 2.1 shows the sources and pathways associated with mining pollution. Zone of active pyrite weathering Secondary minerals formed – potential release of contaminants O 2 ingress Water supply borehole Impacts on groundwater Flooded mine workings Uncontaminated groundwater A ttenuation processes • Alkalinity from weathering of calcite and aluminosilicate minerals • Precipitation of metal ions • Sedimentation of ochre • Sorption of metal ions Generation of contaminants • Acidity from weathering of pyrite • Metal ions from weathering of sulphide minerals Dewatered workings Discharge surface Mine wastes (waste rock or tailings) Impacts on groundwater Infiltration Land surface Contaminated river sediments Figure 2.1: Sources and pathways of mine pollution (from Younger et al. 2002) 2.1 Minewater chemistry The chemical reactions that cause minewater pollution start when the mine is working. Water in the mine is controlled by pumping, to keep the mine dry. Sulphide minerals, which are found in coal seams and mineral veins, particularly iron pyrites, are exposed to air and release sulphate and soluble metal ions. When the mines close, the pumps are switched off and the groundwater level rises until it reaches the surface or discharges into overlying aquifers. This may take a few months or many years. Flooding of the exposed seams stops the oxidation of the sulphide minerals, but dissolves the metal ions and sulphates to form sulphuric acid. The effect of this depends on the nature of the rocks. If they contain calcite or other carbonate minerals, the acidic minewater can be neutralised and metals may stay immobile. Commonly, however, the water dissolves any metal compounds present resulting in high concentrations of metals, particularly iron, zinc, copper, lead, cadmium, manganese and aluminium. The quality [...]... Science Report – Abandoned Mines and the Water Environment 15 Figure 4.1: River Basin Districts and river catchments at risk from abandoned mine pollution 16 Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment 4.2 What we have achieved so far Unlike for coal mines, there is no national body charged with dealing with the impacts of metal and mineral mines around the country There has therefore been... priority list of the water bodies polluted by abandoned non-coal mines in England, Wales and Scotland and the sources of that pollution 18 Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment 4.3 What is still needed A national strategy to deal with pollution from non-coal mines cannot be developed until we understand the scale of the problem Our work identifying abandoned non-coal mines has started... and operate the plant The minewater is now pumped from the shaft and lime is added to raise the pH and cause the metals to form insoluble compounds such as oxyhydroxides and carbonates These settle out with the help of a chemical flocculant and the treated water overflows to the river in compliance with the conditions of a discharge consent set by the Environment Agency to protect the environment The. .. amenity value of the watercourse; • rising minewater levels may cause localised flooding in cellars and low-lying land, and the re-emergence of long dormant springs Science Report – Abandoned Mines and the Water Environment 7 3 Coal mines 3.1 The scale of the problem We have mined coal in the UK for many hundreds of years Monks collected coals on the beaches of North East England as long ago as the twelfth... – Abandoned Mines and the Water Environment 27 including abandoned waste facilities,… which cause serious negative environmental impacts or have the potential of becoming in the medium or short term a serious threat to human health or the environment is drawn up and periodically updated.” 6.3.2 Environmental Liability Directive The Environmental Liability Directive was adopted on the 21 April 2004 and. .. of the park and feeds fishing and canoeing lakes The site is also home to the Welsh National Indoor Climbing Centre, built into the old colliery buildings D Johnston – Environment Agency Figure 3.3: Taff Merthyr minewater treatment plant, the Welsh National Indoor Climbing Centre and riverside park 12 Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment 3.4.2 Mouse Water The Mouse Water in South... pumping of water was stopped and the mines began to flood As the water rose within the underground workings it dissolved metals and other substances, polluting rivers and streams when it reached the surface After 45 years as a nationalised industry, in 1994 the remaining coal mines were privatised The responsibility for managing polluting discharges from abandoned coal mines was passed to the newly... entering the river every year The commitment to treat the minewater allowed funding for the rest of the park to be released, enabling the project to be completed The treatment system is now an integral part of the community park, with footpaths and cycle tracks connecting it to the rest of the valley The large wetlands are a valuable wildlife habitat for many species, and the river is now at the heart of the. .. D Johnston – Environment Agency Figure 4.2: The Wheal Jane minewater treatment plant Science Report – Abandoned Mines and the Water Environment 19 aerobic and anaerobic wetlands The plant was found to work well but would need so much land to treat the whole discharge that it was not feasible We decided that an active chemical treatment plant was the only way to deal with the scale of the problem After... Johnston – Environment Agency Figure 2.4: Eroding tailings at a Cornish tin mine 6 Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment 2.5 Economic impacts Minewater pollution in rivers and groundwater can have a significant economic impact The aesthetic impact of an iron-rich minewater makes the area less attractive for investment House prices and job availability can be compromised The water can . Abandoned mines and the water environment Science project SC030136-41 Product code: SCHO0508BNZS-E-P ii Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment The Environment Agency is the. Mining Projects and Property The Coal Authority iv Science Report – Abandoned mines and the water environment Science at the Environment Agency Science underpins the work of the Environment. report, by the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Coal Authority, sets out the nature and scale of the problem in England, Wales and Scotland today, the
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