In regions affected by historic non-coal (principally metal) mining activity, government agencies are often faced with the challenge of deploying limited remedial resources at abandoned mine sites to achieve maximum improvements in the chemical and ecological quality of impacted ground and surface waters. As such, strategies for the defensible allocation of public funds require comprehensive and systematic frameworks by which to identify and prioritise polluting sites for remediation. This paper describes the development and initial findings of such a national initiative in England and Wales which allies catchment-scale environmental impact assessments using existing public archive data, with recognition of the uncertainty in impact appraisals arising from disparities in data availability between sites and regions. The methodology identifies polluting sites and takes account not only of the chemical and ecological impacts of mine water discharges on receiving watercourses, but also of socio-economic factors such as conservation and heritage concerns, which can both impede or complement efforts to remediate mine sites. Using a Geographic Information System database and a suite of spatial analyses employing Boolean operators, both the extent of the pollution problem from abandoned non-coal mines in England and Wales (6% of 7815 surface water bodies are affected nationally) and the insight that can be gleaned from systematic analyses of existing archive data are highlighted. The results of the nationwide survey can be used as a dynamic database to inform future remedial planning, in terms of prioritising impacted river basins and abandoned non-coal mine sites themselves for either remediation or future monitoring efforts. As the assessment framework is built upon existing water quality and ecological data and mine site/geological data, there is considerable scope for the approach to be applied elsewhere where the legacy of historic mining persists through the widespread pollution of the aquatic environment.
Mayes, W., Johnston, D., Potter, H., & Jarvis, A. (2009). A national strategy for identification, prioritisation and management of pollution from abandoned non-coal mine sites in England and Wales. I.: methodology development and initial results. The Science of the total environment, 407(21), 5435-5447. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2009.06.019