Abstract

Polluted discharges from abandoned mines are a major cause of freshwater pollution in central Scotland, often contributing high Fe, SO42- and acidity to receiving streams. The Central coalfield has been extensively mined for over a century and Polkemmet was the last colliery to close in 1985. Recent monitoring indicates that the rate of groundwater recovery is approximately 0.15 to 0.2 m per week. Without intervention, this trend would result in complete recovery by 2000 and probable discharge into the River Almond. Geochemical modelling indicates that pyrite oxidation, calcite dissolution and goethite precipitation are primarily responsible for the evolution of groundwater chemistry currently observed at Polkemmet. Predictive modelling using PHREEQE suggests that unregulated minewater discharges will have marked effects in the River Almond, with goethite being initially precipitated at a rate of up to 36 kg/day, dissolved sulphate concentrations ranging between 170 and 800 mg/l and pH being depressed to 6.5. Combined active lime flocculation and passive aerobic wetlands may be the most effective means of treating the predicted minewater discharges. Keywords: abandoned mines, hydrochemistry, surface water, underground mining, water quality

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