The Environment Agency Wales is working at Cwm Rheidol mine near Aberystwyth as part of what it’s calling a ‘unique pilot scheme’.

The mine has historically discharged large amounts of zinc and other metals into the River Rheidol which means it is failing to meet the ‘good’ water quality standards required by the European Union’s Water Framework Directive.

Toxic metals will be stripped out of the mine water before it enters the River Rheidol, using an environmentally friendly method that requires no energy source apart from gravity.

The treatment system will use a mixture of waste products, including cockle shells and compost, to encourage natural biological and chemical processes that clean the mine water.

Similar methods have been successfully used to remove iron from coal mine waters, but this is the first time the method has been used to remove zinc and other metals from abandoned metal mines, which are numerous in West Wales.

The pilot scheme, if successful could be used elsewhere in Wales, the UK and other countries to treat water that has been polluted from abandoned metal mines, with minimal cost to the environment.

Senior environment officer with Environment Agency Wales, Paul Edwards, said: “The work being done at Cwm Rheidol could also mean good news for other parts of Wales that suffer similar mine water pollution problems.

“Innovative projects like this one at Cwm Rheidol will help us achieve the challenging targets set by the Water Framework Directive.”

Luke Walsh

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