Mineralogical and geochemical signature of mine waste contamination, Tresillian river, Fal estuary, Cornwall, UK

D Pirrie*, G. S. Camm, LG Sear, SH Hughes

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The mineralized district of SW England was one of the world's greatest mining areas, with mining commencing in the Bronze age, peaking in the 1850s to 1890s, but still continuing to the present day. Consequently, it is not surprising that mining has had a major impact on the environmental geochemistry of SW England. In this study, the mineralogical and geochemical signature of mine waste contamination within the Fal Estuary at Tresillian, Cornwall, has been examined. A pulse of mine waste contamination is recognized at approximately 50 cm below present day sediment surface. Sn, As, Cu, Pb, and Zn are all enriched within this contaminated interval with up to 1800 mg kg(-1) Sn, 290 mg kg(-1) As, 508 mg kg(-1) Pb, 2210 mg kg(-1) Zn, and 1380 mg kg(-1) Cu. Within this interval, the dominant minerals present include chalcopyrite, arsenopyrite, pyrite, cassiterite, Fe-Ti oxides (ilmenite and ?rutile), wolframite, sphalerite, baryte, zircon, monazite, tourmaline and xenotime. In addition, man-made slag products commonly occur. The exact timing of the release of mine waste into the estuary is poorly constrained, but probably occurred during or immediately following the peak in mining activity in the nearby Camborne-Redruth district, which was between 1853 and 1893. The mine waste may have entered the estuary either via the Tresillian River and its tributaries or via Calenick Creek and the Truro River and/or the Carnon River which flows into Rostronguet Creek.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)58-65
    Number of pages8
    JournalEnvironmental Geology
    Issue number1-2
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 1997


    • mine waste contamination
    • Cornwall, UK
    • ZN


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