Environmental Remediation of Old Mining Areas

Rehabilitation of abandoned mines: Covas, Fonte Santa, Terramonte, Espinho, Lousal, Old dam Urgeiriça, São Domingos mine

2001 to 2015


Portuguese government established a good, transparent and clear legal framework that facilitated the difficult rehabilitation project of abandoned mines. There is not a similar project in EU level in which the massive rehabilitation of old mines to be achieved.


One of the most successful rehabilitation practices exists in Portugal, where DGEG- Directorate General of Energy and Geology (Portuguese Mining Authority) formulated a roadmap to rehabilitate various abandoned mines, such as Covas, Fonte Santa, Terramonte, Espinho, Lousal, Old dam Urgeiriça, and São Domingos mine, with a clear description within the national legislation framework and with the establishment of a subsidy company to perform the rehabilitation plan. Portugal is committed to correct environmental liabilities and the impacts of centuries of mining activity. Until 1990, there was no legal obligation for environmental remediation. Since 1990, every mining company is responsible for ensuring the environmental rehabilitation of its sites. The Government defined a policy and created the conditions for the implementation of an Environmental Remediation of Old Mining Areas Plan. The focus of the project was on the mining waste management, the control and reducement of mine water and AMD, the mine water treatment systems (passive, active and mixed), the soil decontamination, the landscape integration and the heritage preservation. 95 mining areas were funded with 89 M€ between 2001-2015, 9 mining areas with ongoing remediation works with 26,6 M€ for the period between 2016-2019, and 51 planned interventions in remaining mining areas are funded with 87 M€ between 2016-2022.

Impact on the mining value chain

  • MINE CLOSURE / WASTE management (incl. Permitting)

Mine closure / Waste

  • mine site reclamation/rehabilitation for subsequent uses


The creation of conditions to develop remediation plans needs political will. It is obvious that the rehabilitation of environmental liabilities arising from industrial mining activities belongs to the priorities of DGEG National Policy Decisions.

Impact area(s): 

Environment, Ecosystem services and quality of natural resources
Impact on listed area: 

+: Rehabilitation of the surrounding landscape

Human/Social, Infrastructure & regional development
Impact on listed area: 

+: Preservation of significant heritage of old mines

Innovation drivers and barriers
EU cohesion fund 
Local communities pressure for rehabilitation of  abandoned mine sites 

Good practice areas

Environmental sustainability
Rehabilitation of the surrounding landscape and natural conditions of development in accordance with the previous habitat conditions.
Social responsibility
Elimination of the risk factors for public health and safety, resulting from water pollution, soil contamination, mining waste and any unprotected areas; Preservation of significant heritage of old mines through valorization of archaeological remains related to mining activity
Economic sustainability
Provision of conditions for future use of reclaimed areas such as agricultural or forestry use, tourism

Organisations involved

Innovation category