Abstract

The hydrogeological effect of limestone extraction from open pits (quarries) depends on the location of the site in the landscape, the vertical and horizontal extent of the excavation, the methods used to excavate the stone, and the extent of karstification. Groundwater quality is commonly affected by quarrying through increased fine sediment concentrations and accidental spillages. Removal of any soil cover allows direct access for pollutants into the aquifer, a problem which may be exacerbated by licensed or illegal tipping of waste following cessation of stone extraction. Quarrying also removes the entire subcutaneous (epikarstic) zone which is an important ground-water store, together with part or all of the unsaturated zone. Pumping of water from the excavation will change the ground-water balance and can alter the direction and amounts of conduit flow, particularly if the quarry extends beneath the water table. Prediction of such impacts is difficult, especially when the limestone is karstified, such that there will always be a degree of uncertainty associated with the impact of the workings. Hence, it is essential that for new quarries monitoring is undertaken prior to, throughout, and following mineral working, with options for mitigation if mineral working causes an unacceptable impact. When a quarry ceases to be worked, the direct impacts on groundwater quality may rapidly decrease but there are important implications for after-use of the site. Impacts on groundwater quantity are likely to be more long-term.

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