End of pumping test at former mine site

Water seeping through the cliffs at Hauxley. Picture by Ivor Rackham
Water seeping through the cliffs at Hauxley. Picture by Ivor Rackham

A pumping test at a former mining site on the north Northumberland coast is set to be completed next week.

As previously reported, the Coal Authority is investigating the water levels in Hauxley, which sparked concerns from the Green Party.
Further to its statement back in September, the Coal Authority has now released responses to a series of frequently-asked questions.
The results will be analysed once the test has been concluded next Tuesday.
‘The Coal Authority will then work with the Environment Agency, to assess what options may be appropriate to alleviate any potential impact of the water returning to its natural level, if this is required,’ it adds.
During opencast mining in the area, groundwater was artificially lowered to extract the coal and when it ceased, about 10 years ago, the private mining companies turned off the pumps at High Hauxley and the groundwater began to rise, returning to its natural rest level, which is why the Coal Authority is ‘proactively monitoring water levels’, having ‘predicted that the local area may possibly be impacted by rising waters from 2016 onwards’.
It means ‘there may be ochreous discharges, which can be orange due to the iron content, in low-lying areas of land and water in the local area’.
The Greens were concerned about this ‘untreated and toxic mine water’ being pumped into the North Sea, but the Authority says it does not need treating as ‘the regulatory bodies have permitted the untreated discharge’ and ‘the quality of the discharge is within the accepted numerical limits used for permitted discharges of this nature’.
On the location for the pumping test, the document says it was chosen ‘because existing infrastructure, some of which was associated with the historical discharge at the beach in Hauxley, was still intact. An existing borehole, pipework and outfall point are currently being utilised’.
It adds: ‘There is no connection between the pumping-test investigations being undertaken at Hauxley and the proposals for a new opencast mine at Highthorn.