Treating mine water
The mine water treatment schemes operated by the Coal Authority prevent over 4,000 tonnes per year of iron solids discharging into watercourses. The result is an improvement in water quality which helps protect the nation’s rivers and streams, and allows aquatic life to flourish in the previously affected watercourses. Most importantly, some schemes serve to protect important sources of drinking water.
Whilst the number of mine water schemes has increased, the Coal Authority continues to improve efficiency to limit the costs associated with running these schemes.
Existing mine water treatment scheme locations
The Coal Authority operates 68+ mine water treatment schemes (as at Aug 14).
Legislation and the role of the Coal Authority
The European Water Framework Directive, which came into force in 2000 and was transposed into national legislation in 2003, is ‘all encompassing’ in nature. It requires that all bodies of water in the EU shall be of ‘good ecological quality’ within the timescales laid down.
Waters impacted by mine water do not always meet this requirement and therefore the objective is to seek to treat those discharges which lead to non-compliance. A further requirement of the Directive is ‘no degradation of watercourses from their current position’. This puts added emphasis on the Coal Authority’s work to prevent any new discharges from occurring.
The success of the Coal Authority’s coal mine water treatment programme has resulted in an extension of their powers, under the Energy Act 2011, to deal with pollution from metal mines. In 2011, Defra started to fund the Coal Authority, making use of their expertise and innovation, to tackle water pollution from non coal mining.
Code of practice for mine water treatment schemes
The Coal Authority and the Planning Officers Society have designed a “Code of Practice for Mine Water Treatment Schemes”. This provides practitioners with a short reference guide for the planning considerations for such schemes.
Understanding mine water treatment
Further information about how the Coal Authority treats mine water is available in the following attachment.