About DIFFUSE Project

The "DIFFUSE Pollution from Historic Metal Mining in the UK" project will undertake field-based research to improve our understanding of diffuse pollution in UK mining-impacted catchments.

The three year project is a joint effort by the British Geological Survey (BGS), the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH), and Newcastle University (NU) funded by the Water and Abandoned Metal Mines Programme, a partnership between the Environment Agency, the Coal Authority and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

More information on the Water and Abandoned Metal Mines Programme

Diffuse pollution can account for significant proportions of the overall metal flux in legacy mining impacted catchments. Dispersed sources of metal(loid) load to surface water arise from mine spoil erosion, run-off and infiltration, contaminated groundwater inputs through the hyporheic zone, and remobilization of previously deposited metal-rich particles in stream channels and floodplains. As such, these sources pose considerable barriers to the achievement of good ecological and chemical status of water bodies and represent a major management issue for the mining industry worldwide. Failing to account for these dispersed sources of pollutants in a catchment can severely reduce the effectiveness of point source remediation directed to the treatment of mine water discharges.

Our aim is to identify cost-effective approaches that can be taken to quantify the importance of spoil areas and riparian / hyporheic zone exchange as diffuse sources/sinks of pollution in historic metal mining catchments. To meet this aim we will comprehensively investigate the physical, hydrological and chemical properties of spoil areas and stream-groundwater exchange zones in a number of test catchments.