The diversity and biological characteristics of eukaryotic communities within acid mine drainage (AMD) sites is less well studied than for prokaryotic communities. Furthermore, for many eukaryotic extremophiles the potential mechanisms of adaptation are unclear. This study describes an evaluation of eight highly acidic (pH 1.6–3.1) and one moderately acidic (pH 5.6) metal-rich acid mine drainage ponds at a disused copper mine. The severity of AMD pollution on eukaryote biodiversity was examined, and while the most species-rich site was less acidic, biodiversity did not only correlate with pH but also with the concentration of dissolved and particulate metals. Acid-tolerant microalgae were present in all ponds, including the species Chlamydomonas acidophila, abundance of which was high in one very metal-rich and highly acidic (pH 1.6) pond, which had a particularly high PO4-P concentration. The C. acidophila strain named PM01 had a broad-range pH tolerance and tolerance to high concentrations of Cd, Cu and Zn, with bioaccumulation of these metals within the cell. Comparison of metal tolerance between the isolated strain and other C. acidophila strains previously isolated from different acidic environments found that the new strain exhibited much higher Cu tolerance, suggesting adaptation by C. acidophila PM01 to excess Cu. An analysis of the metabolic profile of the strains in response to increasing concentrations of Cu suggests that this tolerance by PM01 is in part due to metabolic adaptation and changes in protein content and secondary structure.