LIFE DEMINE - Decreasing the environmental impact caused by abandoned mines on water bodies

LIFE16 ENV/ES/000218

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Contact details:

Contact person: Laia Llenas
Tel: 34938816168
Email: laia.llenas@uvic.cat

Project description:


Mining operations can cause serious social and environmental damage to their surroundings. Problems associated with mines include the long-term release of contaminated acid mine drainage effluents and pollution due to heavy metals or high salt concentrations, depending on the type of mine. The mining industry is the second largest generator of waste in the EU after construction; mining accounted for 29% (0.73 billion tonnes) of the total waste generated in the EU in 2012.

Moreover, the consequences continue long after mining operations have ceased, leaving a legacy that may spread into the surrounding environment and which can be very difficult and costly to address through remedial measures. Abandoned mines remain a major contamination concern, as reflected by the Mining Waste Directive requiring the risk-based inventory of closed and abandoned mine waste sites.

Current technologies in use for the remediation of contaminated metal mine pollution in watercourses are pH adjustment followed by flocculation/sedimentation (active processes) or passing the effluent through a biological filter such as a wetland or compost bed (passive processes). The need of chemical addition and energy requirements are clear disadvantages of these techniques, while some biological filters simply transfer the toxicity management problem from the water to plants. Another passive approach, the use of dispersed alkaline substrate, is inherently non-scalable.


LIFE DEMINE will demonstrate and disseminate the technical and economic feasibility of decreasing the overall environmental impact caused by abandoned mine drainage in water bodies. To achieve this aim, the project will demonstrate an innovative and versatile treatment process combining existing technologies based on membrane processes and electrocoagulation.

The specific objectives of the project are to:

  • Demonstrate – for different mining activities - an innovative, versatile and easily-replicable Mining Effluent Treatment Process (METP) involving: pre-treatment of the mine effluents using membrane processes (Ultrafiltration (UF) and/or Membrane Filtration (MF)), concentration of the target pollutants using nano-filtration (NF) and, finally, recovery of metals and salts by electrocoagulation;
  • Develop a tool – based on a simplified life-cycle assessment model – that permits the sector’s stakeholders to estimate environmental and economic benefits of the new technology;
  • Quantify and disseminate the environmental benefits and the economic impact of the new methodology compared with the current situation;
  • Contribute to the restoration of water bodies currently affected by mining activities, helping to preserve freshwater biodiversity and to secure the ecosystem goods and services that freshwater ecosystems provide, in line with the EU Biodiversity Strategy; and
  • Promote the implementation of environmental policies and strategies for quantifying and minimising the environmental impact caused by mining activities in water bodies.
  • This project aims to directly contribute to the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC) and the Mining Waste Directive (2006/21/EC ).

    Expected results:

  • Knowledge of the composition of at least 50 abandoned mine wastewaters in different European regions;
  • Characterisation of the ecological impact of abandoned mine wastewaters on aquatic ecosystems;
  • Optimal operational conditions of the METP determined at bench scale to properly design the pilot-scale treatment plant;
  • Versatile METP plant to treat mining wastewaters coming from different mining activities (the system designed will be easily scalable);
  • Treatment of around 10 000 m3 of wastewater from abandoned mines: 5 000 m3 in each demonstration site: Nant Bwlch-yr-Haearn in Wales; and Menteroda in Germany.
  • Removal of more than 95% of the content of metals and salts, with a final effluent that can be discharged to water bodies without any risk and in line with the current legislative framework;
  • Based on a plant operating 300 days a year, a reduction of 78% in pollution discharge is expected;
  • Significant increase in the biodiversity of water bodies; and
  • Decreased environmental impact that current abandoned mine wastewaters are causing across the whole European territory.



Environmental issues addressed:


Water - Water quality improvement
Industry-Production - Mining - Quarrying
Water - Water management and supply


water reuse‚  water quality‚  mine‚  water pollution

Target EU Legislation

  • Water
  • Directive 2000/60 - Framework for Community action in the field of water policy (23.10.2000)
  • Waste
  • Directive 2006/21 - Management of waste from extractive industries and amending Directive 2004/35 ...

Natura 2000 sites

Not applicable



Type of organisation University
Description The Technology Centre for Biodiversity, Ecology and Technology, and Environmental and Food Management (BETA) at the Fundació Universitaria Balmes (FUB) aims to transfer innovative and competitive technology that meets environmental sustainability criteria.
Partners Dresdner Grundwasserforschungszentrum e.V., Germany Government of Principality of Asturias, Spain Swansea University, United Kingdom Elentec Ltd, United Kingdom


Project reference LIFE16 ENV/ES/000218
Duration 01-JUL-2017 to 30-JUN -2021
Total budget 2,184,632.00 €
EU contribution 1,310,477.00 €
Project location Schleswig-Holstein(Deutschland) Hamburg(Deutschland) Niedersachsen(Deutschland) Bremen(Deutschland) Nordrhein-Westfalen(Deutschland) Hessen(Deutschland) Rheinland-Pfalz(Deutschland) Baden-Württemberg(Deutschland) Bayern(Deutschland) Saarland(Deutschland) Berlin(Deutschland) Brandenburg(Deutschland) Mecklenburg-Vorpommern(Deutschland) Sachsen(Deutschland) Sachsen-Anhalt(Deutschland) Thüringen(Deutschland) Asturias(España) Cataluña(España) Wales(United Kingdom)


Read more:

Leaflet LIFE DEMINE leaflet
Project web site Project's website
Project web site - 2 Project's Twitter page
Video link "Decreasing the impact of abandoned mines" (5') (https://youtu.be/FGhsBMkYrw4)


Project description   Environmental issues   Beneficiaries   Administrative data   Read more   Print   PDF version