Effect on the Landscape
The landscape around us is dynamic and vital. It provides us with food, wealth and energy, as well as places for wildlife and leisure activities.
Surface mining does have a short-term effect on the landscape but throughout planning, design, operation and restoration, we seek to minimise any negative effects.
Modern surface mining is an efficient process and the area affected at any one stage is much smaller than in the past. As coaling is completed in a part of the site, restoration begins immediately as overburden, sub soils and top soils are used to rebuild the landscape.
Once mining operations have finished, the rebuilt landscape is handed over to our rehabilitation team who oversee years of structured aftercare. Under conditions agreed in the planning process, former surface mine sites are restored to landscapes which can have a number of specialist purposes.
Extraction of coal itself can, maybe surprisingly, have a positive effect on the landscape. Surface mines often extract coal seams that have previously been worked over hundreds of years by crude methods that have left subsidence, pollution and land of limited agricultural, ecological or commercial value.
At Cutacre, near Bolton in north-west England, we have removed large nineteenth century colliery spoil heaps as a part of the operation to recover all the coal from the site. Now entering restoration, the site is being restored to a mixture of open space and commercial development to provide new jobs.
At multi-award-winning Rainton Meadows, the land is now a popular nature reserve run by Durham Wildlife Trust on the outskirts of the City of Sunderland.
St Aidan’s in Yorkshire has been restored to become a key part of the flood defences on the River Aire upstream of Castleford. In close consultation with the Environment Agency, we have created a complex hydrological system that can be progressively flooded, alleviating homes and businesses downstream.
At Long Moor in Leicestershire, a site that has recently finished production, we have moved in quickly to establish groundcover, water features and reinstated public access. One highlight here is the translocation of hedgerows, which once established will provide a corridor for animals to move safely and provide a source of food.
Sometimes the function of the landscape has multiple elements which can provide many economic and social benefits. Surface mines around Stobswood in Northumberland have been mined in a number of phases over more than 20 years and the restored land is now at the centre of a regional regeneration and development project known as Blue Sky.
The site is currently being restored to the original plan, which includes the construction of a viewing hill from overburden materials, management of preserved ancient woodland and construction of kilometres of footpaths and bridleways. Longer term there is a partnership of organisations seeking to develop the site further to include many attractions to help in the economic regeneration of south Northumberland.