Coal mining in the United Kingdom dates back to Roman times and occurred in many different parts of the country. Britain's coalfields are associated with Northumberland and Durham, North and South Wales, Yorkshire, the Scottish Central Belt, Lancashire, Cumbria, the East and West Midlands and Kent. After 1970, coal mining quickly collapsed and practically disappeared in the 21st century. The consumption of coal – mostly for electricity – fell from 157 million tonnes in 1970 to 18 million tonnes in 2016. Of the coal mined, 77% of supplies were imported from Colombia, Russia and the United States. Of the coal mined in the UK in 2016 all was from open-cast coal mines. Employment in coal mines fell from a peak of 1,191,000 in 1920 to 695,000 in 1956, 247,000 in 1976, 44,000 in 1993, and to 2,000 in 2015.
Almost all onshore coal resources in the UK occur in rocks of the Carboniferous age, some of which extend under the North Sea. Bituminous coal is present in most of Britain's coalfields and is 86% to 88% carbon. In Northern Ireland, there are extensive deposits of lignite which is less energy-dense based on oxidation (combustion) at ordinary combustion temperatures (i.e. for the oxidation of carbon - see fossil fuels).
The last deep coal mine in the UK closed on 18 December 2015. Twenty-six open cast mines still remain open  and Banks Mining said in 2018 they planned to start mining a new site in County Durham.
The United Kingdom's onshore coal resources occur in rocks of the Carboniferous age, some of which extend under the North Sea. The carbon content of the bituminous coal present in most of the coalfields is 86% to 88%. Britain's coalfields are associated with Northumberland and Durham, North and South Wales, Yorkshire, the Scottish Central Belt, Lancashire, Cumbria, the East and West Midlands and Kent.
Stone and Bronze Age flint axes have been discovered embedded in coal, showing that it was mined in Britain before the Roman invasion. Early miners first extracted coal already exposed on the surface and then followed the seams underground.
It is probable that the Romans used outcropping coal when working iron or burning lime for building purposes. Evidence to support these theories comes mostly from ash discovered at excavations of Roman sites.
There is no mention of coal mining in the Domesday Book of 1086 although lead and iron mines are recorded. In the 13th century there are records of coal digging in Durham and Northumberland, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Lancashire, the Forest of Dean and North and South Wales. At this time coal was referred to as sea cole, a reference to coal washed ashore on the north east coast of England from either the cliffs or undersea outcrops. As the supply of coal on the surface became used up, settlers followed the seam inland by digging up the shore. Generally the seam continued underground, encouraging the settlers to dig to find coal, the precursor to modern operations.
The early mines would have been drift mines or adits where coal seams outcropped or by shallow bell pits where coal was close to the surface. Shafts lined with tree trunks and branches have been found in Lancashire in workings dating from early 17th century and by 1750 brick lined shafts to 150 foot depth were common.
Coal production increased dramatically in the 19th century as the Industrial Revolution gathered pace, as a fuel for steam engines such as the Newcomen engine, and later, the Watt steam engine. To produce firewood in the 1860s equivalent in energy terms to domestic consumption of coal would have required 25 million acres of land per year, nearly the entire farmland area of England (26 m. acres).
A key development was the invention at Coalbrookdale in the early 18th century of coke which could be used to make pig iron in the blast furnace. The development of the steam locomotive by Trevithick early in the 19th century gave added impetus, and coal consumption grew rapidly as the railway network expanded through the Victorian period. Coal was widely used for domestic heating owing to its low cost and widespread availability. The manufacture of coke also provided coal gas, which could be used for heating and lighting. Most of the workers were children and men. A mining business owner, Jordan Geoff of Upton colliery, West Yorkshire was prosecuted in 1927 for manslaughter for inhumane treatment of his workforce.
UK coal production peaked in 1913 at 287 million tonnes. Until the late 1960s, coal was the main source of energy produced in the UK, peaking at 228 million tonnes in 1952. Ninety-five per cent of this came from roughly 1,334 deep-mines that were operational at the time, with the rest from around 92 surface mines.
In the 1950s and 1960s, around a hundred North East coal mines were closed. In March 1968, the last pit in the Black Country closed and pit closures were a regular occurrence in many other areas. Beginning with wildcat action in 1969, the National Union of Mineworkers became increasingly militant, and was successful in gaining increased wages in their strikes in 1972 and 1974. Closures were less common in the 1970s, and new investments were made in sites such as the Selby Coalfield. In early 1984, the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher announced plans to close 20 coal pits which led to the year-long miners' strike which ended in March 1985. The strike was unsuccessful in stopping the closures and led to an end to the closed shop in British Coal, as the breakaway Union of Democratic Mineworkers was formed by miners who objected to the NUM's handling of the strike. Numerous pit closures followed, and in August 1989 coal mining ended in the Kent coalfield.
After modernisation of underground mining, a deep shaft mine could produce 700 million tonnes annually. In 1986, Kellingley colliery achieved 404,000 tonnes in a single shift but nevertheless, since 1981 production fell sharply from 128 to 17.8 million tonnes in 2009.
Between 1947 and 1994, some 950 mines were closed by UK governments. Clement Attlee’s Labour government closed 101 pits from 1947-‘51, Macmillan (Conservative) closed 246 pits from 1957-‘63, Wilson (Labour) closed 253 between 1964-’77, Thatcher (Conservative) closed 115 between 1979-'90.
In 1994, Prime Minister John Major privatised British Coal after announcing 55  further closures, with the majority of operations transferred to the new company UK Coal. Nevertheless, by this time British Coal had closed all but the most economical of coal pits.
The pit closures caused coal production to slump to the lowest rate in more than a century, further declining towards the end of the 1980s and into the 1990s. This coincided with initiatives for cleaner energy generation as power stations switched to gas and biomass. A total of 100 million tons was produced in 1986, but by 1995 the amount was around 50 million tons. The last deep mine in South Wales closed when the coal was exhausted in January 2008. The mine was closed by British Coal in the privatisation of the industry fourteen years earlier and re-opened after being bought by the miners who had worked at the pit.
Following the limitations to the National Union of Mineworkers' power, British coal-dependent industries have turned to cheaper imported coal. In 2001, production was exceeded by imports for the first time. In 2014, coal imported was three times more than the coal mined in Britain, despite large resources in the country. In 2009, companies were licensed to extract 125 million tonnes of coal in operating underground mines and 42 million tonnes at opencast locations.
Coal mining employed 4,000 workers at 30 locations in 2013, extracting 13 million tonnes of coal. The three deep-pit mines were Hatfield and Kellingley Collieries in Yorkshire and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire. There were 26 opencast sites in 2014, mainly in Scotland. British coal mines achieve the most economically produced coal in Europe, with a level of productivity of 3,200 tonnes per man year. Most coal is used for electricity generation and steel-making, but its use to heat homes has decreased because of pollution concerns. The commodity is also used for fertilisers, chemicals, plastics, medicines and road surfaces. Hatfield Colliery closed in June 2015, as did Thoresby, and in December 2015, Kellingley, bringing to an end deep coal mining in the UK. On 20 December, thousands of people turned out for a march in Yorkshire to mark the occasion. The march began in Knottingley and finished with a rally and party at Kellingley Miners Welfare club.
The demand for coal is likely to fall with increasing focus on renewable energy or low-carbon sources and loss of industry due to globalisation. Oil and gas reserves are predicted to run out long before coal, so gas could be produced from coal by gasification.
On 21 April 2017, Britain went a full day without using coal power to generate electricity for the first time since the Industrial Revolution, according to the National Grid. In May 2019, Britain went a full week without coal.
Earlier this month Maltby colliery in South Yorkshire closed down for good. At the end of a winter that saw 40% of our energy needs met by coal – most of it imported – we witnessed the poignant closing ceremony
The Ashington Group was a small society of artists from Ashington, Northumberland, which met regularly between 1934 and 1984. Despite being composed largely of miners with no formal artistic training, the Group and its work became celebrated in the British art world of the 1930s and 1940s.Bevin Boys
Bevin Boys were young British men conscripted to work in the coal mines of the United Kingdom, between December 1943 and March 1948. Chosen by lot as ten percent of all male conscripts aged 18–25, plus some volunteering as an alternative to military conscription, nearly 48,000 Bevin Boys performed vital and dangerous, but largely unrecognised service in coal mines. Many of them were not released from service until well over two years after the Second World War ended.British Coal Utilisation Research Association
British Coal Utilisation Research Association (BCURA) was founded in 1938, with the first chairman being John G. Bennett. It is a non-profit association of industrial companies, registered as a charity. According to its website "The aim of BCURA is to promote research and other activities concerned with the production, distribution, and use of coal and its derivatives". The member companies provide funds for BCURA to make grants to academic institutions to support research projects. The members are the UK power supply companies, coal producers, some large industrial users of coal and equipment manufacturers. It had a relationship with the now closed Coal Research Establishment at Stoke Orchard, Cheltenham, UK.Coal-Mining (Subsidence) Act 1950
The Coal-Mining (Subsidence) Act of 1950 was an Act of Parliament passed in the United Kingdom by the Labour government of Clement Attlee. It established a scheme to provide relief for residents whose dwellinghouses had been damaged by subsidence.Coal Authority
The Coal Authority is a non-departmental public body of the United Kingdom government.Coal Commission (United Kingdom)
The Coal Commission was a United Kingdom government agency, created to own and manage coal reserves. It was set up in 1938 and ceased to operate on 1 January 1947.Coal Industry Nationalisation Act 1946
The Coal Industry Nationalisation Act of 1946 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It received Royal Assent on 12 July 1946, and provided for the nationalisation of the entire British coal industry. The Act established the National Coal Board which acted as the managing authority for coal mining activities. This was created due to the government needing to tackle "idleness" after the Second World War.Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act 1912
The Coal Mines (Minimum Wage) Act 1912 was an Act of Parliament which gave minimum wage protection to coal miners. It was passed in response to strikes over pay which occurred in the same year.Coal Mines Act 1930
The Coal Mines Act 1930 was an Act of Parliament which introduced a system of quotas in the coal mining industry of Great Britain. It was a major achievement of the Labour Party, which revoked the eight hour day that had been enacted in 1926, replacing it with a 7 1/2 hour day. Mine owners were allowed to fix quotas and minimum prices. Theoretically, the new commission was to plan how to close less efficient pits, but it was not effective. Historian A.J.P. Taylor says that:
on the contrary, the act protected the inefficient. It operated restriction and stable prices at the expense of the consumer. Here was the pattern for British capitalism in the thirties.Coal Mines Regulation Act 1908
The Coal Mines Regulation Act 1908 (c. 57), also known as the Eight Hours Act or the Coal Mines (Eight Hours) Act, was a piece of social legislation passed in 1908 in the United Kingdom by the Liberal government. It limited the hours a miner could work to eight hours per day.List of renewable resources produced and traded by the United Kingdom
This list of renewable resources produced and traded by the United Kingdom presents various renewable resources such as crops for food or fuel, livestock and wood with accompanying information being given on its production and trade by the United Kingdom.
(For non-renewable resources of the United Kingdom see: Coal mining in the United Kingdom, Hydraulic fracturing in the United Kingdom, Mining in the United Kingdom and North Sea oil).Miners' Lung (book)
Miners’ Lung: A History of Dust Disease in British Coal Mining by Arthur McIvor and Ronald Johnston is a 2007 book (ISBN 978-0-7546-3673-1) which is part of the Studies in Labour History series. The book argues that British coal mining is the "classic dangerous trade", and even those that escape the immediate dangers of the pit (mine collapses, explosions, suffocation) may be subject to years of pain, laboured breathing and eventual death. McIvor and Johnston relate the story of how the dust created by the picks, hammers, and pneumatic tools "crept deep into the lungs of the otherwise powerfully built, healthy workers, eventually incapacitating them, ruining their bodies and killing them".Miners' institute
Miners' institutes, sometimes known as Workingmen's institute, Mine Workers' institute, or Miners' Welfare Hall are large institutional buildings that were typically built during the height of the industrial period as a meeting and educational venue. More commonly found in Britain, miners' institutes were owned by miner groups who gave a proportion of their wage into a communal fund to pay for the construction and running of the building. The institutes would normally contain a library, reading room and meeting room.Mines and Collieries Act 1842
Mines and Collieries Act 1842 (c. 99), commonly known as the Mines Act 1842, was an act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It prohibited (banned) all girls and boys under ten years old from working underground in coal mines. It was a response to the working conditions of children revealed in the Children's Employment Commission (Mines) 1842 report. The Commission was headed by Lord Anthony Ashley-Cooper, 7th Earl of Shaftesbury.At the beginning of the 19th century methods of coal extraction were primitive and the workforce, men, women and children, laboured in dangerous conditions. In 1841 about 216,000 people were employed in the mines. Women and children worked underground for 11 or 12 hours a day for smaller wages than men. The public became aware of conditions in the country's collieries in 1838 after an accident at Huskar Colliery in Silkstone, near Barnsley. A stream overflowed into the ventilation drift after violent thunderstorms causing the death of 26 children; 11 girls aged from 8 to 16 and 15 boys between 9 and 12 years of age. The disaster came to the attention of Queen Victoria who ordered an inquiry.In 1840 Lord Ashley headed the royal commission of inquiry, which investigated the conditions of workers (especially children) in the coal mines. Commissioners visited collieries and mining communities gathering information sometimes against the mine owners' wishes. The report, illustrated by engraved illustrations and the personal accounts of mineworkers was published in May 1842. Victorian society was shocked to discover that children as young as five or six worked as trappers, opening and shutting ventilation doors down the mine, before becoming hurriers, pushing and pulling coal tubs and corfs. Lord Ashley deliberately appealed to Victorian prudery, focussing on girls and women wearing trousers and working bare-breasted in the presence of boys and men, which "made girls unsuitable for marriage and unfit to be mothers". Such an affront to Victorian morality ensured the bill was passed.Mining Association of Great Britain
The Mining Association of Great Britain (MAGB) was an industry association of employers in the mining industry of Great Britain that was active from 1854 to 1954.Mining Review
Mining Review was a newsreel of the British coal industry commissioned by the National Coal Board which ran from 1947 to 1983. It was renamed Review in September 1972 when its frequency was reduced from monthly to bi-monthly. At its peak it was seen by 12 million people at 700 British cinemas, mainly in mining areas. Its final and 420th edition was produced in March 1983.National Coal Mining Museum for England
The National Coal Mining Museum for England is based at the site of Caphouse Colliery in Overton, near Wakefield, West Yorkshire, England. It opened in 1988 as the Yorkshire Mining Museum and was granted national status in 1995.Open-pit coal mining in the United Kingdom
Open-pit coal mining in the United Kingdom is in decline. Output has fallen every year since 2010. In 2010, the United Kingdom was forecast to produce about ten million tonnes (9,800,000 long tons; 11,000,000 short tons) of coal a year from open-pit mines. Most came from Scotland, with the largest operator there being the Scottish Coal subsidiary of Scottish Resources Group. Actual production in 2010 was over 13 million tonnes but this has declined to less than 8 million tonnes in 2014.
Statistics on open-pit coal mining are compiled by the British Geological Survey from information provided by local planning authorities. Open-pit coal mines usually last four or five years at extraction rates of up to a quarter-million tons a year.The Stars Look Down
The Stars Look Down is a 1935 novel by A. J. Cronin which chronicles various injustices in an English coal mining community. A film version was produced in 1939, and television adaptations include both Italian (1971) and British (1975) versions.
The novel is set in 'Sleescale,' a mining town on the coast of Northumberland, as well as in 'Tynecastle' (Newcastle upon Tyne). While 'Sleescale' is a fictional locale, it is based on an excellent knowledge of similar places and people. Cronin, a Scot, served as Medical Inspector of Mines in the South Wales Valleys during the 1920s.
Beginning before World War I and extending into the 1930s, the story shows the different careers of several persons: principally, a miner's son who aspires to defend his people politically, a miner who becomes a businessman, and the mine owner's son in conflict with his domineering father.
Coal mining in Europe
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