I’ve recently reported on the risk associated with recreational activities or working on an abandoned copper and arsenic mine in the Tamar Valley, UK. Read these posts at ‘Challenging Habitat‘ and ‘Arsenic Health Risk at UK World Heritage Site‘.
The research attracted news coverage in local papers and BBC Radio Devon and I made local stakeholders aware of it.
I am pleased to see that the landowner of this site has acted responsibly and barred access to arsenic contaminated spoil heaps for sport. As a result, the cycling club Gawton Gravity Hub, who manages access to the site for mountain biking has installed new signage reflecting this change and sturdy timber bars prevent accidental trespass of no-go zones. The most toxic downhill routes are now blocked.
Still, access to the most dangerous part of the site, the area around the ruins of the arsenic processing and refining facilities, is still permitted.
While display boards warning of toxicity and explaining the process of arsenic sublimation and condensation in the calciners and labyrinth are fading, the path once covered in imported ‘inert and clean’ gravel is contaminated with arsenic dust.
More concerning still, just one step distance off the path, the stone and brickwork of the labyrinth undergoes wetting and drying that brings ‘blooms’ of efflorescent salts that are rich in arsenic and highly toxic.