This study investigated a small waterway that had been impacted by upwelling groundwater due to recent geological strata fracturing caused by subsidence activity from longwall coal mining. Documents from the coal mine report that subsidence has undermined and fractured the stream channel for more than 10 years prior to this study. Mine documents also report many years of variably degraded water quality (salinity, elevated metals) in the reaches affected by fracturing. In this study, water quality of the stream was monitored over an 11-month period with water flow dominated by ground water upwelling through fractures in the creek channel. The upwelling water caused extensive modifications to the creek’s surface water quality relative to unmined reference sites. The mean electrical conductivity increased by seven times from 230 μS/cm at reference sites to 1833 μS/cm below the upwelling. Dissolved oxygen in the upwelling groundwater was extremely low (2.7% saturation) and was mildly acidic (5.8 pH). Alterations to the ionic composition included sevenfold increases in magnesium, sodium, and chloride concentrations. Heavy metals iron and manganese increased by more than ten times, with nickel by more than 60 times compared to the reference sites. The alteration to ionic composition was inferred to be saline groundwater intrusion. The ecological impacts of such large modifications to surface stream water quality would be hazardous for integrity of downstream aquatic ecosystems.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
Ali, A., Strezov, V., Davies, P., & Wright, I. W. (2017). Environmental impact of coal mining and coal seam gas production on surface water quality in the Sydney Basin, Australia. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 189, 408.
APHA (American Public Health Association). (1998). Standard methods for the examination of water and wastewater (20th ed.). Washington DC: American Public Health Association.
ANZECC (Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council) and ARMCANZ (Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand). (2000). Australian and New Zealand guidelines for fresh and marine waters (National water quality management strategy paper no. 4). Canberra: Australian and New Zealand Environment and Conservation Council/ Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand.
Banks, D., Younger, P. L., Arnesen, R.-T., Iversen, E. R., & Banks, S. B. (1997). Mine-water chemistry: the good, the bad and the ugly. Environmental Geology, 32, 157–174.
Benner, S. G., Smart, E. W., & Moore, J. N. (1995). Metal behavior during surface groundwater interaction, Silver Bow Creek, Montana. Environmental Science and Technology, 29, 1789–1795.
Brake, S. S., Connors, K. A., & Romberger, S. B. (2001). A river runs through it: impact of acid mine drainage on the geochemistry of West Little Sugar Creek pre- and post-reclamation at the Green Valley coal mine, Indiana, USA. Environmental Geology, 40, 1471–1481.
Geoterra (2015). Tahmoor Colliery longwall 28 surface water, dams and groundwater. End of Panel Monitoring Report. Available at: (http://www.simec.com/media/6334/longwall-28-end-of-panel-report.pdf).
Geoterra (2017). Tahmoor Colliery longwall 30 surface water, dams and groundwater. End of panel monitoring report TA30-R1A 13 October 2017 Available at: (http://www.simec.com/media/6336/longwall-30-end-of-panel-report.pdf).
Horrigan, N., Choy, S., Marshal, J. A., & Recknagel, F. (2005). Response of stream macroinvertebrates to changes in salinity and the development of a salinity index. Marine and Freshwater Research, 56(6), 825–833.
Hutton, A. C. (2009). Geological setting of Australasian coal deposits. In R. Kininmonth, & E. Baafi (Ed.), Australasian coal mining practice (pp. 40-84). 15-31 Pelham street, Carlton Victoria 3053: The Australasian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy.
Jankowski, J. (2007). Changes of water quality in a stream impacted by longwall mining subsidence. In Mine subsidence: Proceedings of the Seventh Triennial Conference on mine subsidence (pp. 241–251). Sydney: Mine SubsidenceTechnological Society.
Johnson, D. B. (2003). Chemical and microbiological characteristics of mineral spoils and drainage waters at abandoned coal and metal mines. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 3, 47–66.
Krogh, M. (2007). Management of longwall coal mining impacts in Sydney’s southern drinking water catchments. Australian Journal of Environmental Management, 14, 155–165.
McNally, G., & Evans, R. (2007). Impacts of longwall mining on surface water and groundwater, Southern Coalfield NSW. Report prepared for NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change. Canberra: eWater Cooperative Research Centre.
Metcalfe, I., Crowley, J. L., Nicoll, R. S., & Schmitz, M. (2015). High-precision U-Pb CA-TIMS calibration of Middle Permian to Lower Triassic sequences, mass extinction and extreme climate-change in eastern Australian Gondwana. Gondwana Research, 28(1), 61–81.
Moon, T. C., & Lucostic, C. M. (1979). Effects of acid mine drainage on a southwestern Pennsylvania stream. Water, Air and Soil Pollution., 11, 377–390.
Mudd, G. M. (2009). The sustainability of mining in Australia: key production trends and their environmental implications for the future. Research Report No RR5, Department of Civil Engineering, Monash University and Mineral Policy Institute, Revised - April 2009. Available at: (http://users.monash.edu.au/~gmudd/files/SustMining-Aust-Report-2009-Master.pdf).
Parkhurst, D.L. & Appelo, C.A.J. (2013) Description of input and examples for PHREEQC version 3—a computer program for speciation, batch-reaction, one-dimensional transport, and inverse geochemical calculations. US geological survey techniques and methods, book 6, chap A43, p 497. Available at: (http://pubs.usgs.gov/tm/06/a43).
Pigati, E., & López, D. L. (1999). Effect of subsidence on recharge at abandoned coal mines generating acidic drainage: the Majestic Mine, Athens County, Ohio. Mine Water and the Environment, 18, 45–66.
Ross, J. B. (2014). Groundwater resource potential of the Triassic Sandstones of the Southern Sydney Basin: an improved understanding. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences, 61, 463–474. https://doi.org/10.1080/08120099.2014.910548.
Tahmoor Coal (2014). Tahmoor underground management system & framework document. Glencore. Tahmoor Coal, PO Box 100, Tahmoor, NSW.
Tippler, C., Wright, I. A., & Hanlon, A. (2012). Is catchment imperviousness a keystone factor degrading urban waterways? A case study from a partly urbanised catchment (Georges River, South-Eastern Australia). Water, Air and Soil Pollution, 223, 5331–5344.
Wright, I. A., McCarthy, B., Belmer, N., & Price, P. (2015). Subsidence from an underground coal mine and mine wastewater discharge causing water pollution and degradation of aquatic ecosystems. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution, 226, 348.
Younger, P. L. (2004). Environmental impacts of coal mining and associated wastes: a geochemical perspective. Geological Society, London, Special Publication, 236, 169–209.
Zhao, L. (2012). Mineralogy and geochemistry of Permian coal seams of the Sydney basin, Australia, and the Songzao coalfield, SW China. PhD Thesis. School of Biological Earth and Environmental Sciences University of New South Wales, Sydney Australia.
Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
About this article
Cite this article
Morrison, K.G., Reynolds, J.K. & Wright, I.A. Subsidence Fracturing of Stream Channel from Longwall Coal Mining Causing Upwelling Saline Groundwater and Metal-Enriched Contamination of Surface Waterway. Water Air Soil Pollut 230, 37 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11270-019-4082-4
- Underground longwall coal mining
- Freshwater pollution
- Heavy metals
- Zinc and nickel
- Ionic composition