Leakage from old copper mine

Leakage from old copper mine

REXSAC PhD student Sandra Fischer and colleagues investigated the water quality near the abandoned copper mine Nautanen  in northern Sweden. The results have now been published in Sustainability.

Disproportionate Water Quality Impacts from the Century-Old Nautanen Copper Mines, Northern Sweden

Sandra Fischer, Gunhild Rosqvist, Sergey R. Chalov and Jerker Jarsjö

Sustainability 2020, 12, 1394; doi:10.3390/su12041394

Link to full article


Pollution from small historical mining sites is usually overlooked, in contrast to larger ones. Especially in the Arctic, knowledge gaps remain regarding the long-term mine waste impacts, such as metal leakage, on water quality. We study the small copper (Cu) mines of Nautanen, northern Sweden, which had been in operation for only six years when abandoned approximately 110 years ago in 1908. Measurements from field campaigns in 2017 are compared to synthesized historical measurement data from 1993 to 2014, and our results show that concentrations of Cu, Zn, and Cd
on-site as well as downstream from the mining site are order(s) of magnitude higher than the local background values. This is despite the small scale of the Nautanen mining site, the short duration of operation, and the long time since closure. Considering the small amount of waste produced at Nautanen, the metal loads from Nautanen are still surprisingly high compared to the metal loads from larger mines. We argue that disproportionately large amounts of metals may be added to surface water systems from the numerous small abandoned mining sites. Such pollution loads need to be accounted for in sustainable assessments of total pollutant pressures in the relatively vulnerable Arctic environment.

Photo: Field work at Nautanen. Photo: Dag Avango