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Coal Mining and Water Quality

AUTHOR: Lee Clarke
DATE: July 1995

The exploitation of any natural resource, including coal, has the potential for producing adverse environmental effects. Mining interacts with water during the extraction of coal, its subsequent preparation, and the disposal of mine waste. The impact of mining on water resources may range from minimal through to severe. The effects depend on the location of the mine, the hydrology and climate of an area, and the physical and chemical properties of the coal, associated strata, and reject materials. The quality and quantity of surface water and groundwater may be affected, both within a mine and in the surrounding areas, if no mitigating measures are used. In most countries stringent environmental regulations have been introduced to control mining activities and mine closure, so as to minimise damage to the environment. Unfortunately, in the past many sites were abandoned with inadequate reclamation measures, leaving a legacy of contaminated drainage and water pollution.

This report considers the impact of coal extraction on water resources and potential causes of water pollution. The disruption of surface water and groundwater systems by surface and underground mining is discussed. Techniques adopted to prevent contamination of mine waters are reviewed, together with active and passive options to treat waters discharged from mining activities. The report examines methods to assess and manage water resources so as to avoid pollution.