The conservation of
geological importance is essential as such sites are vital in the
training of future geologists and as research resources. Although much
degree-level geology is today taught indoors, it is a science which is
still to a large extent field and specimen-based.
In 1996 I
began the four-year Minescan project. This was commissioned
by the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) - now Natural Resources Wales (NRW) - and I undertook the project
as a consultant to the National Museum of Wales (NMW). The project
involved field assessments of the conservation value of over 1000 old
mines and other mineralogical sites throughout Wales, and the data
obtained permitted an objective ranking of the sites relative to one
another. As a primary result, a comprehensive network of potential SSSI and RIGS
sites was identified, representing all aspects of mineralisation and
metallogenesis in Wales. These sites have a real chance of survival as
future scientific resources. The Minescan reports and databases are
available by arrangement through regional CCW offices. A look at Wales'
mineral sites may be had by clicking here.
Central Wales RIGS group's website is here. As a
follow-up, I co-authored, with Dr Richard
Bevins of the NMW, the chapter on Welsh mineralogy in the
"Mineralogy of England and Wales" Geological Conservation Review
volume, published in October 2010.
Pollution at former
minesites is locally
a serious problem in parts of Wales and I have been involved in several
case studies and remedial projects. Issues met with have included acid
mine drainage in which the unstable iron sulphides pyrite and marcasite
react with moist air. The result from the reaction is dilute sulphuric
acid with a heavy toxic metal loading, a combination of pollutants that causes severe damage to
aquatic life in nearby watercourses. Potentially catastrophic incidents
may occur where a tunnel entrance has become dammed-up by collapsed
debris. In 1992, such a dam had formed at the entrance to Cwmrheidol No
9 Adit , near Aberystwyth. Had the dam failed, over 500,000 gallons of
ochre-laden water with a pH of around 2.5 would have suddenly entered
Afon Rheidol, killing most river-life. I was involved, with Simon
Hughes, in the controlled dewatering of the adit and removal of the dam
- a successful job commisioned by the National Rivers Authority, back
in 1993. Easily the messiest job I have ever tackled, with a full
photographic record: please click here for the story!