Work by Natural Resources Wales (NRW) to tackle pollution from an old metal mine at Frongoch, Ceredigion, is helping to give the local environment a new lease of life.

Streams have been diverted away from the mine while contaminated waste has been capped with soil and clay. The landscape at Frongoch is also turning greener, improving habitats for rare mosses and lichens.

NRW suggest the £1.15m scheme could prevent up to 15 tonnes of toxic metals from entering streams and polluting the nearby River Ystwyth each year. 

Paul Edwards, NRW project panager, said: “Our work at Frongoch is reversing more than 100 years of contamination stretching back to the 1800s, when Frongoch Mine was one of the most productive lead and zinc mines in Wales, employing hundreds of people from as far afield as Italy.

“There are around 1,300 old metal mines in Wales. They are an important part of our heritage, but abandoned mines have left a distinct mark on our environment and have caused pollution to more than 100km of rivers and streams. They need to be cleaned up to revitalise today’s environment for wildlife and people.

“The benefits we’ve seen so far at Frongoch are extremely encouraging. We are eager to continue with the work, and share our experiences with other countries.”

Sustainability was a key theme of this project – the soil to cap the mine waste came from within five miles of Frongoch and the work undertaken by a contractor from mid Wales, who employed members of the local community.

The project was part funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh government, and carried out with technical support from the Coal Authority. Dyfed Archaeological Trust provided advice to ensure that the extensive archaeological remains were conserved during the work, to preserve its heritage value.