Water pollution from abandoned coal mines - a forgotten problem?

Discharges from abandoned coal mines are now causing the most serious water pollution problems in Scotland, according to the Director of the Clyde River Purification Board, Dr Desmond Hammerton. He told a conference at Stirling University this month that the situation could worsen as more pits are closed unless the Government acts on recommendations made by the Commission on Energy and Environment (CENE) in 1981.1

The polluting effect of discharges from abandoned mines is caused by a combination of acidity and high concentrations of iron pyrites which are precipitated in rivers as oxide sludges. In 1983, an official survey revealed 62 significant discharges of this kind in the Clyde and Forth River Purification Board (RPB) areas alone - 59 of them associated with coal mining and 25 from abandoned mines. Some 50-60 kilometres of river were moderately or

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