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Mining activities include the extraction of coal and lignite, minerals mainly potassium, rock salt and magnesium-containing minerals, clay, peat, metals such as copper and gold as well as stones, gravel, or sand (aggregates). It is estimated that in EU more than 32 000 sites with mining activities exist, of which more than 25 000 are used for the extraction of aggregates, with the highest numbers of sites in Poland and Germany. The number of peat extraction is some 1 400 sites of which 75 % is located in Finland (EU, 2018).

On the number of abandoned mines, European-wide data are rare, e.g. (EC, 2017a), and the number of abandoned mines is likely to be much higher than of active ones based on available data on certain countries, like Slovakia and Hungary. Slovakia has registered more than 17 000 and Hungary has reported some 6 000 abandoned mining sites (UNCCD, 2000). The bulk of mine water problems in Europe are in fact associated with abandoned mining sites and in numerous catchments, the single greatest cause of freshwater pollution is pollution from abandoned mines (ERMITE-Consortium et al., 2004).

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