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[1] from open-pit mines. Most came from Scotland,[2] with the largest operator there being the Scottish Coal subsidiary of Scottish Resources Group.[3] 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.[4] Open-pit coal mines usually last four or five years at extraction rates of up to a quarter-million tons a year.

Current sites

In September 2017, there were 9 sites operating in the UK with a total manpower of 590.[5] Production has declined to around 3 million tonnes in 2017.


Miller Argent run the Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme in eastern Merthyr Tydfil, which involves mining the coal from under 367 hectares of land made derelict by earlier coal-mining operations; the coal will be provided to the Aberthaw Power Station on the Glamorgan coast. The project started in 2007 and is expected to last 17.5 years.[6]

Celtic Energy now only operates the expanded East Pit.[7]


Hargreaves plc still operates one site in Scotland, House of Water in Ayrshire.[8]


Banks Mining started working on its Bradley site in May 2018 amid protesters camping on the site.[9] [10] Banks has two additional operation site in Shotton, and Brenkley Lane both in Northumberland.[11]

Recent history

The following information relates to 2016 and earlier.


Figures in tonnes. Source [1]

Year England Wales Scotland GB total
2014 2,884,935 2,488,321 2,497,014 7,870,270
2013 3,411,955 2,342,812 2,829,155 8,583,922
2012 2,956,331 2,408,313 4,823,357 10,188,001
2011 2,948,997 2,102,995 5,527,765 10,579,757
2010 2,599,941 4,423,295 6,038,479 13,061,715


Muir Dean opencast mine - - 1556472
Muir Dean coal mine

Hargreaves plc recently closed the following operations: [12] [13]


Tower Colliery site in Hirwaun

The deep mine at Tower Colliery closed in 2008, but there is a plan to build an 80-hectare 165-metre open-pit mine to extract a remaining 6Mton reserve of anthracite, for which a planning application was registered in July 2010.[14] The opencast operation stopped production in March 2017 after it was unable to sell the coal to Aberthaw Power Station due to stricter environmental controls.[15]


Energybuild Ltd operated an opencast site here;[16] it was estimated to have 450 kton of recoverable coal in 2006, which has mostly been excavated between 2006 and 2009. The overburden was sold as road stone.


The site was approved in 1995 but operation was delayed until 1997. Celtic Energy operate a mine at Selar in the Neath Valley.[17] Planning permission was granted to extend the extraction by 800,000 tonnes in 2013 which will keep the mine operational until 2020.[18] The site was mothballed in 2015 due to low coal prices.[19] Celtic Energy now only operates only the expanded East Pit.

Nant Llesg

Miller Argent planned to extract 6m tonnes of coal at Nant Llesg, near Rhymney. Their application was rejected by Caerphilly county borough council on 7 August 2015.[20] The company is considering an appeal.[21]


Banks Mining applied in October 2015 for planning permission to extract about three million tonnes of coal and other minerals from the Highthorn site in Northumberland. The application was rejected in March 2018.[22]

UK Coal (England and Scotland)

Active sites in 2010
  • Long Moor: 725 kton initial reserve
  • Lodge House (Derbyshire): 1Mton initial reserve; further 800 kton awaiting planning approval August 2011 [23]
  • Cutacre (Greater Manchester, between Bolton and Salford): 900 kton initial reserve[24]
  • Steadsburn (fifteen miles north of Newcastle upon Tyne): 1Mton initial reserve plus 300 ktons of fireclay
  • Stobswood, at Stobswood near Morpeth in Northumberland.[25][26]
UK Coal prospective sites in 2010

In 2010, UK Coal had the following prospective sites in England and Scotland.[27]

  • Hoodsclose, Co. Durham (2200 kton coal + 500 kton fireclay) [28]
  • Potland Burn, Northumberland (2,000 kton), note 1
  • Park Wall North, Co. Durham (1275 kton), note 1
  • Bradley, Co. Durham (550 kton) - rejected in February 2011 [29] though UK Coal is appealing [23]
  • Huntington Lane, Shropshire (900 kton), note 2
  • Blair House, Fife (700 kton)
  • Former Minorca Colliery (Measham, Leicestershire); 1250 kton + 250 kton fireclay - planning permission granted July 2011, production expected to commence summer 2012 [23]
  • Butterwell Disposal Point (Northumberland); 1000 kton + 200 kton fireclay, note 1
  1. These three sites are now owned by UKCSMR Limited.[30]
  2. Coal extraction at Huntington Lane ended in 2013 but, in May 2015, it was claimed that the site had been "left as an eyesore".[31]

Site restoration

The Sunday Herald reported on 13 July 2014 that "Mines in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Fife, abandoned by Scottish Coal when it went bust in April 2013, are threatened by rising water levels, contaminated lagoons and erosion".[32]

On 9 July 2015 an Opencast Coal Summit was held to "explore what the planning system can do to ensure all opencast coal sites are fully and sustainably restored for the benefit of communities and the environment". After the summit a report was published by Carl Sargeant AM, the Welsh Minister for Natural Resources.[33]


Open-pit coal mining is opposed by the Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON)[34] and by Greenpeace[35] and Friends of the Earth.[36]


  1. ^ "More opencast mine bids 'likely on greenfield sites'". BBC News. 15 August 2010.
  2. ^ Carrell, Severin (14 August 2009). "Opencast coalmine surge 'weakens UK's authority at climate change talks'". The Guardian. London.
  3. ^ "Scottish Coal".
  4. ^ "Opencast coal statistics".
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Selar Central consultation". UK Coal. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  18. ^ "Jobs safeguarded at Neath Valley Mine". South Wales Evening Post. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ a b c "UK Coal Interim Report" (PDF). UK Coal. Harworth Group. 23 August 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  24. ^ "Cutacre, Bolton, Greater Manchester". Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  25. ^ "Stobswood". UK Coal.
  26. ^ "Map". Geograph. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  27. ^ "Future Developments".
  28. ^ "New Mine Proposal Could Create 80 Jobs" (PDF). 28 November 2010.
  29. ^ "UK Coal opencast mine plan for County Durham rejected". BBC News. 16 February 2011.
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
United Kingdom enterprise law

United Kingdom enterprise law concerns the ownership and regulation of organisations producing goods and services in the UK, European and international economy. Private enterprises are usually incorporated under the Companies Act 2006, regulated by competition law and insolvency law, while almost one third of the workforce and half of the UK economy is in enterprises subject to special regulation. Enterprise law mediates the rights and duties of investors, workers, consumers and the public to ensure efficient production, and deliver services that UK and international law sees as universal human rights. Labour, company, competition and insolvency law create a general rights for stakeholders, and set a basic framework for enterprise governance, but rules of governance, competition and insolvency are altered in specific enterprises to uphold the public interest, as well as civil and social rights. Universities and schools have traditionally been publicly established, and socially regulated, to ensure universal education. The National Health Service was set up in 1946 to provide everyone free health care, regardless of class or income, paid for by progressive taxation. The UK government controls monetary policy and regulates private banking through the publicly owned Bank of England, to complement its fiscal policy. Taxation and spending composes nearly half of total economic activity, but this has diminished since 1979.

Since 1980, a large segment of UK enterprise was privatised, reducing public and citizen voice in their services, particularly among utilities. Since the Climate Change Act 2008, the modern UK economy has increasingly been powered by renewable energy, but still depends disproportionately on oil, gas and coal. Energy governance is framed by statutes including the Petroleum Act 1998 and the Electricity Act 1989, which enable government to use its licensing powers to shift to a zero-carbon economy, and phase out fossil fuels. Energy ratepayers typically have rights to adequate standards of supply, and increasingly the right to participate in how their services are provided, overseen by the Oil and Gas Authority and Ofgem. The Water Industry Act 1991 regulates drinking and sewerage infrastructure, overseen by Ofwat. The Railways Act 1993, the Transport Act 1985 or the Road Traffic Act 1988, under the Office of Rail and Road, govern the majority of land transport. Rail and bus passengers are entitled to adequate services, and have limited rights to voice in management. A growing number of bus, energy and water enterprises have been put back into public hands, while in London and Scotland, railways may be wholly publicly run. While, post, telephones and television were the major channels for communication and media in the 20th century, 21st century communications networks have increasingly converged on the internet. Particularly in social media networks, this has presented problems in ensuring standards of safety, accuracy and fairness in online information and discourse. Like securities and other marketplaces, online networks dominated by multinational corporations, have received increased attention from regulators and legislators as they have become associated with political crisis.

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