Mine water pollution in Scotland: nature, extent and preventative strategies

Sci Total Environ. 2001 Jan 29;265(1-3):309-26. doi: 10.1016/s0048-9697(00)00673-2.


Scotland was one of the world's first industrialised countries, and has therefore also been one of the first countries to experience wholesale post-industrial dereliction. Water pollution arising from abandoned mines, particularly abandoned coal mines, is second only to sewage as a source of freshwater pollution nation-wide, and in many coalfield catchments it is the pre-eminent source. Most of the pollution is due to net-alkaline ferruginous waters emerging from deep mines. Scrutiny of records from 80 deep mine discharges reveals that iron concentrations in these waters are only likely to exceed 20 mg/l, and the pH to be below 6.5, where the discharge emerges within 0.5 km of the outcrop of the shallowest mined seam. The bulk of mature near-outcrop mine water discharges in Scotland have < 50 mg/l total Fe, and concentrations > 100 mg/l are only likely where a marine bed lies within 25 m of the worked seam. Where the nearest marine bed is more than 80 m above or below the seam, then the total iron will be less than 4 mg/l, and in most cases less than 1 mg/l. Net-acidic mine waters are far more rare than net-alkaline waters in Scotland, and are most commonly associated with unreclaimed spoil heaps (bings). Both net-alkaline and net-acidic discharges have detrimental effects on the hydrochemistry and biological integrity of receiving waters. Scotland has recently pioneered the use of pre-emptive pump-and-treat solutions to prevent mine water pollution, and has also experienced the successful introduction of passive treatment technology for both abandoned and active workings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Iron / analysis
  • Mining*
  • Scotland
  • Waste Disposal, Fluid
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants
  • Iron