Surface Coal Mining in the UK

December 2015 saw the closure of the UK’s last remaining deep coal mine. Kellingley Colliery in Yorkshire closed its doors for the final time marking the end of an era and an important part of Britain’s history. 

Surface coal mining in the UK’s has been in decline ever since its peak during the Industrial Revolution, with many mines abandoned, but the UK’s coal industry is still hanging on in there! Although a lot of coal is now imported, surface mines are still in operation across the UK and are continuing to supply coal. 

Surface Mining

Surface mining is the extraction of coal which is present just below the ground surface, as opposed to deep underground down long mine shafts. Coal forms in layers known as coal seams, so if these seams lie close to the surface, they can be extracted via surface mining. The layers of rock are removed from the top to access the coal, and then from in between subsequent coal seams. 

Surface mining is fast, and depending on the size of the mine they are only usually mined for around two to five years. There has recently been good investment into surface mining in the UK, particularly in Scotland, so coal mining in the UK is not giving up the fight yet.

After the Mining Finishes

Coal mining is only a short term use of land so an important aspect for getting permission to mine an area is the plan to restore the area once the mine has been exploited. They are either returned to their original state, or where possible even improved. The rock taken out of one mine is often used to help rebuild the land excavated from a previous mine. Land can be use for natural habitats, farming, or building upon, often whichever will benefit and most suit the local community. 

With modern mining techniques, environmental impacts are minimised greatly both during the time when the mine is active as well as following this when the land is repaired and restored.

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