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.


Figures in tonnes. Source

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

Current sites


Hargreaves plc still operates some sites in Scotland and is committed to maintaining its Scottish operations until May 2016. The sites include:[5]


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.[6]


The following information relates mainly to 2010 and earlier.


Miller Argent in Merthyr Tydfil

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.[7]

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.[8]


Energybuild Ltd operates an opencast site here;[9] 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.[10] Planning permission was granted to extend the extraction by 800,000 tonnes in 2013 which will keep the mine operational until 2020.[11]

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.[12] The company is considering an appeal.[13]

UK Coal (England and Scotland)

See also: UK Coal
Active sites in 2010
UK Coal prospective sites in 2010

In 2010, UK Coal had the following prospective sites in England and Scotland.[18]

  1. These three sites are now owned by UKCSMR Limited.[21]
  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".[22]

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".[23]

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.[24]


Open-pit coal mining is opposed by the Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON)[25] and by Greenpeace[26] and Friends of the Earth.[27]


  1. "More opencast mine bids 'likely on greenfield sites'". BBC News. 15 August 2010.
  2. Carrell, Severin (2009-08-14). "Opencast coalmine surge 'weakens UK's authority at climate change talks'". The Guardian. London.
  3. "Scottish Coal".
  4. "Opencast coal statistics".
  10. "Selar Central consultation". UK Coal. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  11. "Jobs safeguarded at Neath Valley Mine". South Wales Evening Post. 3 December 2013. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  14. 1 2 3 "UK Coal Interim Report" (PDF). UK Coal. Harworth Group. 23 August 2011. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  15. "Cutacre, Bolton, Greater Manchester". Retrieved 13 March 2010.
  16. "Stobswood". UK Coal.
  17. "Map". Geograph. Retrieved 20 December 2015.
  18. "Future Developments".
  19. "New Mine Proposal Could Create 80 Jobs" (PDF). 28 November 2010.
  20. "UK Coal opencast mine plan for County Durham rejected". BBC News. 16 February 2011.
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