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Buying a House in a Mining Area

Adele MacGregor

Written by

8th Sep 2021 (Last updated on 28th Oct 2022) 7 minute read

Mining refers to the extraction of valuable mineral resources from the earth in response to industry demand. Your conveyancer or solicitor may suggest a mining search if you are buying a property in an area where mining is underway or has taken place.

Buying a house in a mining area, be it past, present or proposed mining, can seem daunting and it is not uncommon for some lenders to refuse mortgages for homes 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. Mining searches are considered by property professionals to be vital for anyone looking to buy a home in an area where any type of mining has taken place.

This article will cover the following:
  1. What is the Impact of Mining on Properties?
  2. What is a Mining Search?
  3. Buying a House in a Coal Mining Area
  4. Buying a House in a Tin or Copper Mining Area
  5. Buying a Home in a China Clay Mining Area
  6. Is It Safe to Buy a House in a Current or Former Mining Area?
  7. What is Underpinning?
  8. Learn More About Conveyancing

What is the Impact of Mining on Properties?

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 that could cause significant problems. These issues range from contaminating land to potential ground collapse.

Below we look at the main effects of mining on properties and the surrounding land:

Subsidence

One of the biggest impacts mining can have on a property is subsidence which is the downward movement or “sinking” of a property. Subsidence can affect any property across the country, in some cases, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. The removal of materials such as coal from an underground mine can cause roof materials to cave, leading to subsidence on the surface.

Contaminated Land

Another impact of Britain’s mining industry is the contamination of the 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 a result of large-scale land disturbances associated with mining. 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 conveyancer or solicitor as part of the conveyancing process.

Flooding

Within former mining areas, there have been reported issues of flooding occurring. It is not unusual for heavy rain to expose mining features or cause mine water to rise. In Skewen, Wales a mine shaft filled with water and burst during heavy rainfall in February 2021, flooding nearby homes.

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What is a Mining Search?

The purpose of a mining search is to reveal if mining activity has been carried out beneath the property or in the surrounding area where you are looking to buy. The search will also highlight what risks this may pose.

Although the boom of the mining industry is something of the past, there are still active mines across the UK. This is without accounting for an estimated 150,000 abandoned mines nationwide.

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.

Which search you opt for depends on the type of mining that took place in the area. Coal is the most commonly worked material, with coal mining being a huge industry across Wales, the Midlands, the North of England and Scotland. Other mining types such as tin mining and other metal mining impact areas such as Cornwall and Devon.

Buying a House in a Coal Mining Area

Coal was the most commonly worked material in the UK and even as late as 1981, the country was producing 128 million tonnes of coal a year.

According to Groundsure, coal mining can cause subsidence, surface collapses, mass movement and landslides, depending on the style of mining used. 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 coal mining search, is strongly advised. Your conveyancer or solicitor should make you aware if the property is in an area that 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.

SearchWhat is it?Cost

CON29M

Provides information on past, present and proposed coal mining activity for individual properties in England and Wales.

Residential from: £42.95 (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 £74.42

Off the coalfield - Residential from £56.28

Enviro All-in-One

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 £66.00

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.

From £26.80

*Data from Ground Stability

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Buying a House in a Tin or Copper Mining Area

Tin mining was a major industry in Cornwall, South West Devon and in some areas of Somerset, with copper also being mined in the area. 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

A Metalliferous Mining Search will reveal if the property resides in an area of past, current or proposed metal 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.

Clay Mining Search

A clay mining search is 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.

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Is It Safe to Buy a House in a Current or Former Mining Area?

Despite the potential impact of mining on the land, if the property and surrounding areas pass all searches and checks, there is no reason why you shouldn’t feel safe in the property. Many residential areas across the UK are built in former mining areas with little to no concerns for the homes or their residents.

Before committing to a property, make sure you are satisfied with the reports and read the contents carefully. If you have any concerns, be sure to discuss these with your conveyancer before completing the purchase.

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. This can be an option if the home has been impacted by mining activity.

Learn More About Conveyancing

This has been part of our conveyancing guide. In the next guide, we look at everything you need to know about negative equity. To learn more, read what is negative equity.

Adele MacGregor

Having worked at Compare My Move for over four years, Adele covers topics such as the conveyancing process across the UK, property surveys, home moves and storage.

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