Former metal mining areas in England and Wales: local residents’ preferences for the management of wastes

Governance and management of tailings


Danielle Sinnett


University of the West of England

This study uses the Q Method to examine how those living in former metal mining landscapes value this heritage and their preferences for the long-term management of mine waste. Such sites are often perceived as derelict or degraded, and of very little value. It is therefore assumed that their reuse, for example for development or recovery of metals, is likely to be beneficial. There are around 5,000 former metal mines in England and Wales, many of which are protected for their ecological, geological or cultural value. The Q Method is particularly suitable for issues where there is no consensus of opinion. We asked 38 residents of six mining areas in England and Wales to ‘sort’ a series of statements based on their resonance with the resident’s perspective; this is the Q sort. The statements covered a range of opinions of the mining legacy, its value and options for its management with a particular focus on the potential for metal recovery from the wastes. Analysis of the Q sorts revealed five perspectives on the mining heritage. All placed a high value on the cultural and ecological value of this heritage, however, they differed in their priorities for long-term management. For example, emphasis was placed on either nature conservation, cultural heritage, water quality or the opportunity for job creation through reworking the mines. Cutting across these themes there were also differing perspectives on the role of experts and local people in shaping the future management of the wastes. This research suggests that the views of local people are nuanced; they value their mining heritage but opinion is split on the most effective way to manage these sites especially where there is an impact on water quality.

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