Closed mining waste facilities causing serious environmental impact: frequently asked questions

Answers to commonly-asked questions about closed and abandoned mining waste facilities causing serious environmental impacts.

1. What is the closed mining waste facilities map?

The map shows locations in England and Wales where closed and abandoned mining waste facilities are causing serious environmental impacts.  The map states the cause of the impact: either water pollution, harm to human health, instability or fire hazard.

The vast majority of sites are causing environmental impacts due to water pollution. This information was provided by the Environment Agency as the authority responsible for protecting waters from pollution. Closed or abandoned mines prevent 8% of our rivers and groundwaters from reaching good status targets set by the Water Framework Directive due to pollution by metals including zinc, iron, cadmium, lead and copper. More information about impacts on water is available in our publication Abandoned mines and the water environment (PDF, 2.28 MB).

Harm to human health may include risks to humans and property, for example from land contamination, the stability of mines and their associated wastes, or from fires. This information was provided by local authorities, who are responsible for preventing risks to human health and property.

2. Does the map show all mining waste facilities?

No. This is a shortlist only of the closed and abandoned mining waste facilities causing serious environmental impacts. This means those facilities causing "serious negative environmental impacts or have the potential of becoming in the medium or short term a serious threat to human health or the environment". Closed and abandoned mining waste facilities that cause lesser impacts are not included on this map.

This map does not include operating mining waste facilities, which fall under the Environmental Permitting Regulations.

3. How was the closed mining waste facilities map produced?

The maps use information provided by the Environment Agency and local authorities.

The Environment Agency is responsible for protecting waters from pollution in England and Wales. We investigate and report on the extent of water pollution from all sources, including operational, closed and abandoned mines - see our 2009 River Basin Management Plans. To create the closed mining waste facilities map, we collected information on water pollution and known mining waste facilities. We used our data on water quality in rivers and expert judgement to assess the risk and significance of pollution from these sites. 

Local Authorities are responsible for delivering elements of the Contaminated Land Regulations, which deal with risks to human health and to property. To complete the closed mining waste facilities map, we asked Local Authorities to provide information about the closed and abandoned mining waste facilities they considered currently pose a significant risk to human health or are likely to in the short to medium term.

A detailed report explaining how we collected the information for the Inventory can be found in our publication Inventory of closed mining waste facilities causing serious environmental impact (PDF, 858 KB).

4. Who uses the closed mining waste facilities map and why?

The Mining Waste Directive requires that we make available to the public a list of closed mining waste facilities causing serious environmental impact. It is important that individuals, local businesses and communities are aware of the impacts of closed and abandoned mining waste facilities.

The Environment Agency and Local Authorities work together to identify the sites posing serious risks or causing serious environmental impacts. We will use this information to help us prioritise the resources available to clean up pollution from closed and abandoned mines.

5. Will the closed mining waste facilities map be updated?

Yes.  We are required to keep the map up to date under the Mining Waste Directive. We plan to update it at least every three years.

Additional closed and abandoned mining waste facilities may be added to the list as we find out more about their environmental impacts. Sites which, in the future, are investigated further or remediated may be removed from this list if they are no longer considered to be causing serious environmental impacts.

6. Who is responsible for dealing with the environmental impacts?

The Mining Waste Directive does not require us to take any action to address closed mining waste facilities. The difficulty with these sites is that most closed by the early 20th century and the mine operators no longer exist. Furthermore, no-one can be held liable for pollution arising from mines that closed before 1999..However, other legislation including the Water Framework Directive and the Part 2A contaminated land regime may be used to deliver environmental improvements.

The Environment Agency is working with Defra, Welsh Government and the Coal Authority to deal with water pollution from abandoned metal mines to help deliver good status for the Water Framework Directive.  Local Authorities have a duty under the Part 2A contaminated land regime to inspect their area for land, including closed and abandoned mining waste facilities, that may cause significant harm to human health and other receptors.

7. Where can I get more information on the closed mining waste facilities in my area?

For enquiries about pollution of waters by closed and abandoned mining waste facilities, please contact either our National Customer Contact Centre (NCCC) on 0370 8506506 or email enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk (Mon-Fri, 8am - 6pm).

For enquiries about risks to human health or property from closed and abandoned mining waste facilities, please contact your local authority.

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