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The production of natural resources and services in catchments occurs at multiple scales. Of these scales in mining catchments of managerial interests and explicitly mentioned in the current regulations are: the scale of the primarily contaminated sites (tailing dams, dumps etc.), the scale of secondarily contaminated sites (river floodplains downstream mining areas, with their soil, groundwater and biodiversity resources), and the scale of the integrating catchments subject to water management plans. There are different stakeholders for these sites and natural resources, but they are interlinked as a result of fluxes of toxic elements transported by water.

Tailing dams are an important threat for the water quality downstream and for the quality of the floodplain sediments and the associated biodiversity. At the same time they are potential resources by re-exploitation. The management measures taken at tailing dam scale have consequences on the natural resources of services in catchments (Iordache et al. 2011). These consequences are positive or negative externalities of the remediation projects developed for tailing dams. Consequently, there should be an integration between the local stakeholders (e.g. private companies interested in the remediation and/or re-exploitation of tailing dams) and the regional stakeholders (public institutions involved in the management of natural resources and services at large scale, e.g. regional administrative bodies or basin management authorities). The design of the remediation and re-exploitation plans should be informed by the effects on these externalities.

Private companies are interested in a method of remediation of tailing ponds throughout re-exploitation and re-depositing using geochemical and biological techniques to inactivate the tailing material. The method should be not only an environmental benefit to public bodies responsible for catchment management, but also extremely cost-effective, since it’s designed to use exclusively private funds, being implemented by companies activating in the mining and remediation sector.

The relationships between mining companies and the other stakeholders in mining areas due to the management of the pollution sources are a delivery of ecosystem services or disservices within a watershed. This can be tackled by a payment system for these natural services or disservices (figure 1).

Figure 1 Conceptual framework for transactions including ecosystem services in a socio-ecological system (Brouwer et al. 2011). In the case of disservices the polluter pays principle applies and the provider of disservices pays the stakeholders from downstream. Both situations can apply to companies working in mining areas.

Payment for ecosystem (dis)services schemes need clear and enforceable rules and transaction mechanisms, which in term depend on the exact quantification of the provision of services/disservices at a precise location in space and time (Brouwer et al. 2011), which in itself is an environmental services provided by consulting companies for clients on the market (providers, buyers, beneficiaries, governmental actors, NGOs). Currently the lack of such innovative environmental services precludes the construction of payment for ecosystem (dis)services scheme in mining catchments.

In this context, the overall goal of TIMMAR is to develop a set of innovative environmental services and ecotechnologies useful for the integration of management plans of the stakeholders using resources located in catchments with tailing ponds in their structure.

The project directly addresses topic 3.3.3 Ecotechnologies for ecological rehabilitation and reconstruction, technologies for remediation of contaminated soils and to the topic 3.3.5 Creation of data bases and mathematical models for the decision making cycle in view of the conservation, reconstruction and sustainable use of the biological and ecological diversity.

The project addresses “new frontier” promising technologies for the multi-scale hazard assessment, for the remediation at ecosystem (tailing pond) scale and, by its landscape approach, explicitly connects the soil remediation with the reduction of the risk for other environmental compartments (soil, water, plants). A broad national dimension is ensured by the development of innovative environmental services using mathematical models built using data sets obtained in a population of sites representative for the Romanian tailing ponds and distributed across the latitudinal gradients.

The project results are 1 innovative environmental service (IES) for assessing the stocks and forms of toxic elements in tailing dams, one innovative eco-technology for the cost effective stabilisation of tailing dams, 2 IESs for predicting the contamination hotspots in soil and groundwater downstream mining areas, 1 IES for the optimization of monitoring systems downstream mining areas, and 1 IES for assistance in the design of integrated environmental management plans of stakeholders in contaminated basins.