Protecting the Public in Coal Mining Areas
The Coal Authority deals with public safety risks arising from past coal mining activities. These include open mine entries, mine entry and mine working collapses, fissure damage, gas emissions, mine water emissions and spontaneous combustion of coal.
Damage can occur over a prolonged time period and may not represent an immediate danger or it can occur suddenly and present an instant danger to the public.
The Public Safety and Subsidence team manages these issues arising from past mining activities.
An emergency incident is an event which occurs suddenly and often without warning where damage from coal mining leaves an obvious danger and a risk of injury.
The Public Safety and Subsidence team provides an emergency response service to deal with these incidents across all the coalfield areas that are associated with former coal mining operations. Our emergency call out service deals with these incidents on a 24 hour basis, every day of the year. Upon receiving a report of an emergency incident, we will arrange for the situation to be made safe without consideration of responsibility. Following on from this, we will investigate the cause of an incident and, if we have a responsibility to do so, we will carry out a permanent treatment.
It is extremely rare to be able to predict ground collapses associated with mine entries and shallow workings, and hence the Coal Authority can only react to remove a public safety danger when a notification of an incident is made to it by the public and/or external bodies such as Police, Fire and Rescue, councils etc.
Damage occurring from coal mining which takes place over a prolonged time period is referred to as subsidence. This usually involves damage occurring over a number of weeks, months or sometimes longer, and may be observed as the sinking/collapsing of surface land or cracked plaster or brickwork/sticking doors within buildings. Because the damage slowly develops, it usually does not present an immediate risk of injury to anyone and does not warrant an immediate response from the Authority's emergency team.
Claims for subsidence damage are made to the Authority under the framework of the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991. When you first notice the damage you should make a claim by submitting a Damage Notice to us. This will allow the Public Safety and Subsidence team to visit you to inspect the damage and progress your claim.
The Public Safety and Subsidence team also administers the Coal Authority’s inspection for the 170,000 recorded coal mine entries across the UK. We are carrying out this inspection programme as part of our public safety strategy.
We are inspecting the location of approximately 20,000 mine entries each year and in most cases (99%) we find no visual evidence of the mine entry. Sometimes we identify the need for some maintenance or remedial works and if a mine entry is open or there is coal mining subsidence we will act quickly to ensure that the situation is made safe.
The Public Safety and Subsidence team operates the management programme for 41 spoil tips which are in the ownership of the Coal Authority. All our tips and associated lands and structures are subject to a rigorous programme of inspection and regular monitoring in the interests of public safety and environmental protection.