Buying a House in a Mining Area
Written by Adele MacGregor
7th May 2020 (Last updated on 2nd Jul 2020) 9 minute read
Mining refers to the extraction of valuable mineral resources from the earth in response to industry demand. Buying a house in a mining area, be it past, present or proposed mining, can seem incredibly daunting.
Your conveyancing solicitor may suggest a mining search, in addition to the Local Authority Searches, which are completed as part of the conveyancing process.
It is not uncommon for some lenders to refuse mortgages for properties near historic mining areas. It is essential that, as a homebuyer, you are aware of the risks posed by former mining activity to a property. In this guide, Compare My Move will cover all the information you need to know about buying a home in a mining area and the steps you need to take before buying.
Why Do I Need a Mining Search?
Mining searches are considered by property professionals to be vital for anyone buying a home in any type of mining The purpose of a mining search is to find out if there is any likelihood of mining activity having been carried out beneath the property you are looking at and in the nearby area. It also highlights what risks this may pose.
According to a report from Landmark Information, almost one-third of all residential properties in Wales and England are at risk of being affected by past mining activity. The report estimates that 33% of homes are built within 250m of land that may have been used for coal mining and quarrying of sand, clay and gravel pits.
Mine-workings can run long distances underground and extend beneath residential properties. Even if there are no signs in the area of previous mines, below the surface may be hidden issues which could cause significant problems.
What Are the Impacts of Mining on a Property?
Previous mining activity can have a significant impact on a property and the local area, with issues ranging from contaminating land to potential ground collapse. Below we look at the main effects of mining on properties and the surrounding land.
One of the biggest impacts mining can have on a property is subsidence. Subsidence is the downward movement or “sinking” of a property. This can affect any property across the country, in some cases, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.
Properties can be affected by natural subsidence and non-natural subsidence. Natural subsidence is a result of the natural geographical hazards. Non-natural ground subsidence is a result of human activities including industries such as mining.
Subsidence can have a major effect on the topography of the land surface. The removal of materials such as coal from an underground mine can cause roof materials to cave, leading to subsidence on the surface
Another impact of Britain’s mining industry is the contamination of the surrounding land. Since the early days of the industry, mining for coal, metal ores and other minerals have always been accompanied by pollution.
According to a report from The Environment Agency, water pollution is as a result of large-scale land disturbances associated with mining.
The Environmental Protection Act states that the responsibility for cleaning up contamination is the person or company which caused the contamination.
However, it is often difficult to identify the individuals or organisations which have caused this. It is then the responsibility of the current owner or occupier of the land. This is why Local Authority searches are so important before buying a home.
An environmental search or Local Authority search can reveal whether the property you are looking to buy sits on contaminated land. These searches will be organised by your conveyancing solicitor as part of the conveyancing process.
Within former mining areas, there have been reported issues of groundwater flooding occurring.
A report from The Coal Authority and Environmental Agency for the North East of England stated that there have been examples where mining and groundwater had not been sufficiently assessed before commencing development works. In turn, this led to sites experiencing groundwater flooding and prolonged flood duration.
What Checks Are Done for Properties in Mining Areas?
Although the boom of the mining industry is something of the past, there is still mining activity in the UK. This is without accounting for an estimated 150,000 abandoned mines nationwide.
Besides a property survey and Local Authority Searches, there are specific searches designed for areas of past, present and future mining.
Below we will review a few of the different types of mining and what each means for your property purchase.
Buying a House in a Coal Mining Area
The most commonly worked material, coal mining was a huge industry in the North of England, Wales, the Midlands and Scotland. By 1981, the country was producing 128 million tonnes of coal a year.
Coal is still being mined in parts of the UK. In March 2019, Britain’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years was given the go-ahead in Cumbria, despite protests from climate change campaigners.
According to Groundsure, surface or subsurface coal mining may cause ground stability problems such as subsidence, surface collapses, mass movement and landslides, depending on the style of mining used.
The Coal Authority, established in 1994 by the Coal Industry Act, is responsible for the licensing of coal mining operations in the UK and the administering of claims for the coal mining subsidence damage.
Furthermore, under the Coal Mining Subsidence Act 1991, homeowners whose property has been damaged by coal mining may be entitled to remedies including repair, depreciation or compensation payments.
Coal Mining Searches
If you are looking to purchase a property in a former or current coal mining area, a full structural survey, in addition to a full coal mining search, is strongly advised.
Your conveyancing solicitor should make you aware if the property is in an area which may be affected by past, present or proposed mining. You can also do so yourself via the Coal Authority online search service.
The Coal Authority holds and maintains the national coal mining database for both opencast and deep mining activities. They offer a range of reports for homebuyers and conveyancers in assessing the risks of coal mining activity.
|Search||What is it?||Cost|
Provides information on past, present and proposed coal mining activity for individual properties in England and Wales.
Residential from: £41.94 (including VAT 20%)
Ground Stability Report
Includes all essential information in the CON29M, in addition to property-specific information on causes of natural subsidence from the British Geological Survey (BGS).
On the coalfield - Residential from £93.96
Off the coalfield - Residential from £54.96
Provides property-specific opinion and analysis of the land and fulfills the Law Society’s due diligence requirements for both coal mining and contaminated land searches.
On the Coalfield - Residential from £93.96
Off the Coalfield - Residential from £66.99
No Search Certificate - Off the Coalfield
A formal document that states, based on geography supplied and information available at the time of request, there are no known past, present or proposed coal workings around the property.
*Data from Ground Stability
Buying a House in a Tin Mining Area
Tin mining was a major industry in Cornwall, South West Devon and in some areas of Somerset. According to the National Trust, it is thought that Cornish tin has been traded throughout Britain for around 4000 years. It is considered so significant that the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape achieved World Heritage Status in 2006.
Although the majority of tin mining in this area has now stopped, there is still a risk of subsidence as a result of old mine workings.
Metalliferous Mining Search
If you are looking at a property in the South-West of England, a Metalliferous Mining Search is recommended.
A Metalliferous Mining Search will reveal if the property resides in an area of past, current or proposed mining activity. It will also note the location and distance to the nearest recorded and suspected mine workings. The report typically includes tin, copper, kead, silber, iron and zinc mining.
It will also indicate whether or not there are any mine shafts underneath the property and whether these pose a danger to the property or restrict development of the land.
The search will also assess whether mining in the area could have caused land contamination.
Buying a Home in a China Clay Mining Area
If you are looking at a property in Cornwall, Dorset or Devon, it may be worth considering a mining search for China Clay Mining.
These areas may have been mined in the past and are therefore at risk of subsidence. Current Clay Mining is now restricted to the areas of Dartmoor and St Austell and buyers of properties in these areas are also recommended to request a search.
China/Ball Clay Mining Search
Compiled using Mining Searches UK in-house mining archive database, the search includes clear and concise information detailing historic mining, current and any potential future mining.
The report includes a plan extract confirming the property location and any relevant mining features.
If mine workings are identified, recommendations to mitigate the risks are provided.
Frequently Asked Questions When Buying a Home in a Mining Area
Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions when looking to buy a property in a mining area:
Is It Safe to Buy a House in a Former Mining Area?
If the property and surrounding areas pass all searches and checks, there is no reason why you shouldn’t feel safe in the property. Make sure you are satisfied with the reports and read the contents carefully before you complete the purchase.
Are There Active Mines in the UK?
Yes, there is still active mining across the UK. There are around 2,000 mines and quarries across the UK producing a range of materials.
- Lithium mining in Cornwall
- Tin and in Cornwall and Devon
- Gold Mining in the Scottish Highlands, North Wales and throughout England
- Polyhalite in Yorkshire
- Coal in Cumbria
- Barite in Perthshire
- Fluorspar and Lead in the Peak District in Derbyshire
What Are Local Authority Searches?
A Local Authority Search is a query into the local area and land where the property you are hoping to buy is located. These searches are a vital part of the conveyancing process and will reassure your mortgage lender that the property won’t lose its value.
What is Underpinning?
When a house is affected by subsidence, underpinning is sometimes an option for homeowners. Underpinning is a construction method used to help strengthen the foundation of a property. The soil under the foundation is excavated and replaced with materials to repair the structure.
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