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Welsh mines discovered to be releasing 500 tonnes of hazardous metals each year.

A recent report has revealed that a minimum of 500 tonnes of harmful metals seep into the environment annually from abandoned mines in Wales.

An inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act conducted by the FT has disclosed that 129 derelict mine sites scattered across Wales are contributing to deteriorating water quality. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) estimates that between 350 and 500 tonnes of metals are leaking into the water supply each year from these sites. NRW asserts that these 129 locations are either definitively or highly likely to be causing violations of water quality standards.

These mine sites are contaminating approximately 700 kilometers of waterways, with pollutants such as lead, zinc, and cadmium infiltrating rivers and streams. Following these revelations, members of parliament have been urged to address the issue of abandoned mine pollution.

In discussions with the FT, Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake emphasized, “The seriousness of these findings warrants national concern and necessitates immediate attention from both the Welsh and UK governments.”

The release of toxic metals into local water bodies is a significant worry, as they can be absorbed by plants and animals, eventually making their way into the human food chain. In a study conducted by NRW in 2023, harmful levels of lead were discovered in eggs laid on two farms near abandoned mines in West Wales. The lead levels detected were sufficient to cause cognitive impairments in young children who consume one to two eggs daily.

Despite the identification of mine pollution as an issue in Wales since 2002, very little action has been taken to address it. Since the inception of the Metal Mine Strategy for Wales in 2002, only one major remediation project has been completed.

Lake advocates for more robust measures, stating, “Government ministers, relevant public bodies, and members of the scientific community should convene promptly to identify necessary actions to mitigate any risks to public health. There is no time to waste.”

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