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Correlating floodplain geochemical profiles with archival historical mining records to establish depositional chronologies of river sediment

Parker, Andrew; Milan, D. J.; McEwen, Lindsey


Andrew Parker

Lindsey McEwen


Chronological markers in fluvial sediments can provide useful information on geomorphic response to historic catchment disturbance, and help explain historic channel morphodynamics. We concentrate on the River Nent catchment in Northern England, which was heavily impacted by lead and zinc mining in the 18th and 19th centuries. We date a 2 m deep profile of fine (<2mm) floodplain sediments using ore extraction records, covering the period 1845 to 1913, based on a significant correlation between zinc concentrations and zinc-ore extraction (r = 0.78, n = 27; p < 0.01). These dates were constrained with a basal OSL date of 2.7 ± 0.3 ka (Agemin to Agemean 1.4–3.0 ka) and existing lichenometric dates for surface gravels. Earliest lead contaminated sediments at the base of the profile most likely resulted from Roman mining operations within the catchment. Local mine-worker population statistics were used to simulate pre-1845 lead ore extraction; where above-average peaks in lead concentration, recorded at the 125–130 cm, 105–110 cm and 95–100 cm horizons, were linked to respective peaks in lead ore extraction in 1825, 1850 and 1866. Estimates of historic sediment delivery volumes at a 0.062 km2 sink site at Blagill, approximately 6.5 km downstream of the headwaters to the Nent, were estimated through coupling the chronological markers with accumulated sediment thickness and reach area. Sediment delivery was seen to be strongly enhanced by phases of metal mining, with peaks between 1800 and 1825 reflecting the final stages of lead mining, and later between 1892 and 1895, reflecting the peak extraction of zinc. Although lag times between ore extraction peaks and sediment delivery to the Blagill site introduce uncertainty to the proposed chronology, we conclude that where good local mining statistics are available, our approach provides a useful alternative or may be used in conjunction with other commonly used methodologies.


Parker, A., Milan, D. J., & McEwen, L. (2022). Correlating floodplain geochemical profiles with archival historical mining records to establish depositional chronologies of river sediment. CATENA, 218, Article 106532.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 14, 2022
Online Publication Date Jul 29, 2022
Publication Date 2022-11
Deposit Date Aug 7, 2022
Publicly Available Date Aug 8, 2022
Journal Catena
Print ISSN 0341-8162
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 218
Article Number 106532
Keywords Sediment budget; Heavy metals; Chronology; Historic mining statistics; Channel metamorphosis
Public URL


Published article (11.8 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2022 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (

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