Case study:Minsterley Brook Abandoned Metal Mines

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Location: 52° 38' 28", -2° 55' 23"
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Project overview

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Status In progress
Project web site
Themes Environmental flows and water resources, Habitat and biodiversity, Monitoring, Water quality
Country England
Main contact forename Andrew
Main contact surname Pearson
Main contact user ID
Contact organisation Environment Agency
Contact organisation web site
Partner organisations The Coal Authority (UK)
Parent multi-site project
This is a parent project
encompassing the following
Wood Adit

Project summary

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Minsterley Brook catchment includes a number of separate mines as part of the South Shropshire Metal Mining area, including Snailbeach, Tankerville, and Roman Gravels mines. The catchment is part of the Rea Brook which drains into the main River Severn at Shrewsbury. The mines were worked for mainly lead ores, but also zinc ore and latterly barites until closure in the 1940s, leaving spoil deposits and drainage adits which discharge to Minsterley Brook at various points. The mines are a significant source of heavy metal pollution in the catchment, and the discharges from them represent one of the longest continuous sources of pollution in the whole Severn River Basin.

Environment Agency routine monitoring found there were high levels of zinc in Minsterley Brook over most of its length, exceeding the Environmental Quality Standards (EQS) for the brook (75ug/l). As a result, the watercourse isn't achieving the 'Good status' for water quality as set out in our Severn River Basin Plan. The Boat Level adit discharge is the main source of the zinc (around 3000kg per annum) and other heavy metals, such as cadmium and lead, and discharges these pollutants into the Hogstow Brook. Immediately downstream of the Boat Level adit the zinc concentrations are up to 47x the EQS. At Minsterley, the zinc concentrations are 8x the EQS. Downstream of the mines, concentrations exceed the EQS for over 15km, until the Rea Brook reaches Hanwood and dilution from other rivers lowers the concentration to below the EQS.

Ecological surveys of the brooks have found aquatic insects were suffering as a result of these heavy metals, which can settle in river sediments. There is also a lower than expected population of small fish species. There are four other, smaller discharges of metals into the catchment from Snailbeach Spoil Tip, Wood Adit, Roman Gravels and Tankerville spoil tips, which together contribute about a quarter of the metal load in wet conditions. These spoil heaps are listed on the Mining Waste Directive Inventory of sites causing serious environmental harm. Snailbeach Spoil Tip (also known as White Tip) is part of the Snailbeach mine schedule monument, and “ranks as one of the best surviving examples of a lead mining complex".

The Environment Agency continue to investigate and monitor the water quality in the Minsterley and Rea Brooks, and with funding from Defra have set up a partnership with the Coal Authority to look at options for potentially removing the metals from discharges. The ultimate aim is to construct long term sustainable treatment schemes that deal with the problem at the source and help the Minsterley & Rea Brooks to meet the EQS and return to 'Good' ecological and chemical status.

Investigations to date have identified that the discharges from the Boat Level and Snailbeach Spoil Tip are the most feasible to be treated (subject to pilot trials), and the Coal Authority are carrying out comprehensive flow monitoring of these discharges. Using waters from Snailbeach Spoil tip, the partnership is working with academics and consultants to develop possible treatment technologies, such as ion exchange, to remove the metals from the discharges. Once treatment options have been identified, the partnership will consult with the public and other stakeholders on the next stages.

Monitoring surveys and results

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Lessons learnt

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Image gallery

Minsterley key sources map.jpg
120726 Snailbeach headworks.JPG
120726 White Tip Snailbeach.JPG
120726 Restored White Tip.JPG
Copyright Ian Watson Coal Authority

Catchment and subcatchment


River basin district Severn
River basin Severn Uplands


River name Minsterley Bk - source to conf Rea Bk
Area category 10 - 100 km²
Area (km2)
Maximum altitude category 500 - 1000 m
Maximum altitude (m) 521
521 m
0.521 km
52,100 cm
Dominant geology Siliceous
Ecoregion Great Britain
Dominant land cover Improved grassland
Waterbody ID GB109054049480


WFD water body codes GB109054049480
WFD (national) typology
WFD water body name Minsterley Bk - source to conf Rea Bk
Pre-project morphology
Reference morphology
Desired post project morphology
Heavily modified water body No
National/international site designation
Local/regional site designations
Protected species present No
Invasive species present No
Species of interest
Dominant hydrology
Dominant substrate
River corridor land use Improved/semi-improved grassland/pasture
Average bankfull channel width category
Average bankfull channel width (m)
Average bankfull channel depth category
Average bankfull channel depth (m)
Mean discharge category
Mean annual discharge (m3/s)
Average channel gradient category
Average channel gradient
Average unit stream power (W/m2)

Project background

Reach length directly affected (m)
Project started
Works started
Works completed
Project completed
Total cost category
Total cost (k€)
Benefit to cost ratio
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Cost for project phases

Phase cost category cost exact (k€) Lead organisation Contact forename Contact surname
Investigation and design
Stakeholder engagement and communication
Works and works supervision
Post-project management and maintenance

Reasons for river restoration

Mitigation of a pressure abandoned mine pollution
Biology Fish, Invertebrates
Physico-chemical Specific non-synthetic pollutants
Other reasons for the project


Structural measures
Bank/bed modifications
Floodplain / River corridor Water treatment methods
Planform / Channel pattern
Non-structural measures
Management interventions Walkover surveys and water sample data collection
Social measures (incl. engagement)
Other Ecological survey


Hydromorphological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Biological quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative
Fish No No No No No
Invertebrates No No No No No

Physico-chemical quality elements

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Any other monitoring, e.g. social, economic

Element When monitored Type of monitoring Control site used Result
Before measures After measures Qualitative Quantitative

Monitoring documents

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Additional links and references

Link Description key sources map.jpg

Supplementary Information

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