School of Engineering

Mining & Metals in the Environment

Mining and Metals in the Environment

Overview

Metals pollution of freshwaters, especially the impacts of mining on the environment, has been a major research theme for us for more than two decades.

Research and development activity within the theme has two complementary strands. These address the source, fate, transport and remediation of metal pollutants, and river catchment management in mining districts (policy, regulation and stakeholder engagement).

The outcomes of the group’s research have been deeply influential, both nationally and internationally.

It has guided the approach of the UK government to:

  • manage abandoned mine pollution
  • develop novel treatment technologies
  • contribute to the drafting of EU and UK legislation
  • guide the development of river basin management plans in the UK and Latin America

Current projects

Commercial and consulting

The mining and metals team at Newcastle routinely work alongside engineering consultants and other organisations, providing expert advice and assistance in a variety of projects.

For information, contact Dr Adam Jarvis.

Abandoned Mines

This landmark project provided the clearest quantification to date of the nature and extent of pollution arising from abandoned metal mines.

Project leader

Dr Adam Jarvis

Project details

Sponsors: Defra, Environment Agency, Welsh Government
Partners: Coal Authority, Atkins Ltd
Start/end dates: 2007 - 2009
Contact: Dr Adam Jarvis 

The project, led by the Newcastle team, involved the development of a geographical information systems-hosted methodology for prioritising the impacts of abandoned metal mines on the environment. It used existing data held by the Environment Agency.

The methodology developed took into account not only impacts on water quality, but also ecological impacts and socio-economic considerations.

Spatial analyses, using Boolean operators, were employed to evaluate the extent and severity of pollution.

The outputs from the project have now been transposed directly into the Environment Agency’s River Basin Management Plans for England and Wales.

Further details of the methodology can be found in Mayes, W.M. et al. (2009), Science of the Total Environment, 407, 5435-5447.

Academic staff

  • Dr Adam Jarvis

Researchers

  • Dr Catherine Gandy
  • Dr Will Mayes (now Hull University)

Mitigation of Pollution

This project is the UK’s biggest mine water treatment research and development initiative.

Project leader

Dr Adam Jarvis

Project details

Sponsors: Defra, Environment Agency
Start/end dates: 2009 - 2012
Contact: Dr Adam Jarvis

Following on from the success of the prioritisation of abandoned non-coal mine impacts on the environment project, and continuing the team’s long track record of developing novel water treatment technologies, this project is the UK’s biggest mine water treatment research and development initiative.

Three pilot-scale treatment systems have been designed by the Newcastle team and are operated by us and the Environment Agency.

Novel technologies are being explored to identify effective, long-term and low-cost approaches to treating waters polluted with divalent metals such as zinc, cadmium and lead.

Running laboratory-based experiments alongside the field trials is enabling us to evaluate the influences of environmental factors and engineering scale on the performance of the reactors.

Publications

  • Jarvis et al. (2006) Environmental Pollution, 143, 261-268 
  • Matthies et al. (2010) Science of the Total Environment, 408, 4877-4885; Mayes et al. (2009) Journal of Hazardous Materials, 162, 512-520

Academic staff

  • Dr Adam Jarvis

Researchers

  • Dr Catherine Gandy

Support

  • Miss Jane Davis
  • Mr Patrick Orme

Quantification

Since 2004 the Newcastle team has been involved in research to improve understanding of the dynamic importance of sources of metals pollution in river catchments. This has the ultimate aim of identifying appropriate remediation measures.

Project leader

Dr Adam Jarvis

Project details

Sponsors: Coal Authority, Defra, Environment Agency
Start/end dates: 2004 - present
Contact: Dr Adam Jarvis

A key to the research is a clear understanding of the possible sources of pollution, careful location of monitoring stations and synchronous flow and water quality measurements.

The results of the work have repeatedly illustrated that diffuse sources of pollution (such as run-off from mine waste piles) can be a very important source of pollution, with implications for where to target treatment initiatives.

Publications

  • Gozzard et al. (2011) Environmental Pollution, 159, 3113-3122
  • Mayes et al. (2008) Environmental Pollution, 151, 165-175

Academic staff

  • Dr Adam Jarvis

Researchers

  • Dr Catherine Gandy
  • Dr Emma Gozzard (now Centre for Ecology and Hydrology)
  • Dr Will Mayes (now Hull University)

River Tyne Sediment

This major initiative investigated the flux of metal contaminants arising from the former mining districts of the north Pennines of Cumbria and Northumberland.

Project leader

Dr Adam Jarvis

Project details

Sponsors: Multiple
Partners: Envirocentre, Glasgow
Start/end dates: 2009 - 2011
Contact: Dr Adam Jarvis

High frequency (hourly) synchronous monitoring of flow and water quality provided a unique insight into the flux of metals from these regions under varying hydrological conditions.

It revealed for the first time the substantial flux of metals transported downstream, particularly during periods of very high flow. 

The results suggest that previous calculations of annual flux of metals from UK rivers (particularly those affected by mining activity) may be significant underestimates.

Academic Staff

  • Dr Adam Jarvis

Researchers

  • Dr Catherine Gandy

Support

  • Miss Jane Davis
  • Mr Patrick Orme