Hydrogeological definition and applicability of abandoned coal mines as water reservoirs
Hydrogeologically, the Central Coal Basin (Asturias, Spain) is characterized by predominantly low-permeability materials that make up a multilayer aquifer with very low porosity and permeability values, where the sandstones act as limited aquifers, and wackes, mudstones, shales and coal seams act as confining levels. Preferential groundwater flow paths are open fractures and zones of decompression associated with them, so the hydraulic behaviour of the system is more associated with fracturing than lithology. Thus, abandoned and flooded mines in the area acquire an important role in the management of water resources, setting up an artificial “pseudo-karst” aquifer. This paper evaluates the potential application of the abandoned mines as underground reservoirs, both for water supply and energetic use, mainly through heat pumps and small hydropower plants. In particular, the groundwater reservoir shaped by the connected shafts Barredo and Figaredo has been chosen, and a detailed and multifaceted study has been undertaken in the area. The exposed applications fit with an integrated management of water resources and contribute to improve economic and social conditions of a traditional mining area in gradual decline due to the cessation of such activity.
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