Effect of episodic rainfall on aqueous metal mobility from historical mine sites

Magaly Valencia-Avellan, Rebecca Slack, Anthony Stockdale, Robert John George Mortimer
  • Environmental Chemistry, January 2017, CSIRO Publishing
  • DOI: 10.1071/en17133

Extreme rainfall increases metal pollution from abandoned mines

What is it about?

Climate change may be causing an increase in episodes of very heavy but short duration rainfall. This study looks at the effect of these events on the movement of pollutant metals from abandoned mine sites.

Why is it important?

These events tend to wash more fine spoil particles from heaps into streams and rivers where they can leach into the water over time. For areas of lead mining they also increase the concentration dissolved in the stream water. Both of these factors may affect the quality of water for both drinking water extraction and the ecosystem within the stream or river.


Anthony Stockdale

There is sound evidence (in the recent IPCC report) that climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme rainfall in some global regions. Evidence for the UK is currently more anecdotal, but these events occurring in upland mining areas will change the pollution dynamics in already impacted areas. These effects need to be considered in our future management of historical abandoned mine sites, many of which are located in our National Parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. These are sensitive areas not just from an ecological perspective but also for economic factors such as fisheries and potable water extraction.

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The following have contributed to this page: Anthony Stockdale