About Surface Mining
Surface mining is the extraction of coal from seams lying just underneath the surface of the land. In the UK this practice dates back as early as Roman and Medieval times. Today it is a fast and precise process, ensuring that this precious resource is carefully recovered.
Unlike deep mining, where shafts are sunk to depths of up to 800 metres or more, our surface sites extract coal from depths of between 40 to 150 metres. The UK’s coal reserves have been extensively mapped and recorded over the years and our challenge is to extract coal from surface mines using methods that are both commercially viable and environmentally sensitive. This is the challenge we thrive on.
Before any soil is moved at a potential site, a full environmental impact assessment is carried out and a comprehensive planning application prepared and submitted following public consultation.
When permission has been granted development begins and the first stage is the removal of topsoil and subsoil. Catalogued and stored on site, the soils and other excavated material known as overburden are removed by mechanical diggers to gain access to the coal seams. They are then reused in the restoration process.
During mining, the overburden is usually stored in mounds. They form a visual and noise barrier to reduce the effect of the site and the operations on the surrounding area and people that live there. All sites have environmental monitoring equipment to check that permitted levels of noise and dust are not exceeded.
Working with communities
It is vital that we can hear any issues arising during the operational life of a surface mine. At each mine we form a liaison committee of local representatives. These committees work with us to ensure planning conditions are being adhered to and they also oversee and approve grants from the UK Coal Community Fund established for each surface mine.
Community Funds, financed by our mining operations, provide direct financial support to local groups. Churches, scout groups, sports clubs, charities and social welfare organisations in the vicinity of our surface mine sites all benefit from the substantial sums that are allocated every year.
As coaling is completed in one part of a surface mine, progressive restoration begins using overburden and stored soils. By the time operations have finished, the full restoration phase is up and running under the management of our rehabilitation team.
Our surface mines have often been the site of historic mining activity dating back hundreds of years creating problems with subsidence and pollution which we rectify as part of the restoration process. Correcting these problems requires enormous experience and years of aftercare and attention to detail.
We plant approximately 65,000 trees every year, create new hedgerows and waterways and provide environments rich in biodiversity, tailored to local wildlife needs. Restored surface mine sites typically include greater public rights of way and a mix of higher quality agricultural land and new homes and businesses that enhance local economies.
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UK Coal Surface Mining has become Britain’s first surface coal mining company to join the Institu
Children from Bothal Middle School in Ashington helped to plant 500 young trees as part of the re