Framework for remediation of rivers impacted by legacy metal mine pollution

Baxter, Helen Abigail

December 2015

Thesis or dissertation

© 2015 Helen Abigail Baxter. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Seven percent of surface waters in England and Wales are impacted by pollution from abandoned non-ferrous metal mines. It is estimated that there are about five thousand five hundred of these. There is no legal liability to any party attached to abandoned metal mines in the UK if they ceased operation before 1999. Preventing pollution from entering river catchments from these sources can be expensive and public funds are limited in extent. These enduring sources of pollution are a significant impediment to compliance with the legislative requirements, such as the European Water Framework Directive. This thesis develops a framework for integrating pre-existing tools and methodologies to address this environmental problem: Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), Life Cycle Impact Assessment (LCIA) and Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES). By fully quantifying the economic, social and environmental impacts of abandoned mine discharges and the net benefits of potential management interventions over different scales, it is proposed that the framework can provide a sustainable way forward for identifying appropriate cost-effective remedial interventions, identify sources of funding for remediation to take place through PES, while at the same time being sensitive to stakeholder concerns. To determine the effectiveness of this framework two phases of research have been undertaken. The first was a series of interviews with a range of key stakeholders with relevant knowledge and expertise, targeting key concerns and conflicts that arise in managing legacy pollution. The second was to apply the framework to a specific mine-impacted catchment to determine the effectiveness of the framework and an optimal solution for that site. Key findings of stakeholder interviews revealed the general positive attitude towards PES-schemes also discrepancies in knowledge between different sectors. Industrial representatives emphasised the likely need for regulation to initiate such processes. The potentially important role of stewardship and conservation organisations as “ethical brokers” for such schemes was highlighted, given their expertise at communicating and managing a range of stakeholder opinions. The application of the framework to the Hebden Beck catchment in North Yorkshire found that multiple small scale passive remediation at affected locations would be an optimal solution. The full costs of such systems are outweighed by the potential ecosystem service benefits of metal removal from upland streams. Fundamental to the acceptability and sustainability of the remedial solution was the requirement for habitat offsetting to be incorporated into the proposed works.

Department of Engineering, The University of Hull
Mayes, William, 1978-
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University of Hull
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