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The investigation of statutory nuisance mineshafts: A project to establish awareness and actions amongst local authority environmental health departments

Volume:7

Issue:1

Year: 2008

David Holmes BSc MSc DIC MCIEH MIEnvSci

Correspondence: David Holmes, 5 Lilac Grove, Luston, Leominster, HR6 0EF.

Abstract

The hazards of abandoned mineshafts and the risks to walkers and others may be overlooked or ignored by both landowners and regulators. The risks to the public may be significant as the mineshafts are often in areas frequented by tourists. With the new ‘right to roam’ legislation – the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) – and an increasing interest in industrial archaeology, it is likely that more people will be visiting areas that have been subject to past mining activities thus increasing the potential for accidents to occur.

Local authorities have had duties in respect of abandoned mine workings for some 50 years. This paper identifies the hazards of abandoned mines and the concomitant risks. The applicable legislation is reviewed, and – based on the results of initial and follow up surveys – the level of awareness of, and the actions by, local authority environmental health departments is estimated.

The initial surveys found that while awareness of the issue is quite high (70%) and some local authorities have been proactive, many with a history of mining have taken no action, or only limited action, to inspect their districts and secure abandoned mine entrances. Awareness of CROW was high, but only in a minority of cases (23%) had additional action been taken in respect of the new access land created by this legislation.

The follow-up surveys investigated in more detail what actions were being taken and the reasons for not taking action. Lack of resources, the complexity of the legislation and uncertainty of what actions are practical in securing mine entrances, were all identified as barriers to action. Where mine entrances had been investigated and secured, very little follow-up work was taking place to maintain or monitor the works.

Key words: Environmental health; countryside; mineshafts; safety; statutory nuisance; walking.

Introduction

Abandoned mineshafts and the risks of accidentally entering or falling into them are a hazard that may be being overlooked or ignored by both landowners and regulators. However, the risk to the public may be significant as they are often in areas frequented by tourists. With the new ‘right to roam’ legislation (Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) and an increasing interest in industrial archaeology, it is likely that more people will be visiting areas that have been subject to past mining activities. The likelihood of a serious incident occurring is therefore growing. Aims of this research

The aims of this research project were to establish the level of awareness of the issue of abandoned mine workings among local authority environmental health practitioners to see what actions are being carried out in areas where mining occurred in terms of identifying and dealing with potential statutory nuisances. The scale of abandoned mines Large areas of the UK have a significant mining legacy. A review published in 1991 revealed that mining had occurred in every county of England and Wales, and that in some areas around 20% of the land area had been subject to mining (Figure 1.0) (Ove Arup/DOE 1992).

The investigation of fig 1

Based on estimates from the literature and other sources, the number of mine entrances could be in the order of 300,000. Areas of the country particularly affected by mining include Cornwall, Devon, The Peak District, Shropshire, Cumbria, the Mendips, Wales, and parts of the Scottish Lowlands. The mines may take the form of drift mines, adits, surface workings or deep mine shafts. The mines may have been worked for long periods, or have been short-term trial workings. Old mines may have numerous exits and shafts, (for drainage, transporting ore, for access). Often mines were started speculatively and shortly afterwards abandoned.

Other mines limped along with a succession of owners, mining a variety of minerals, and all the while making changes to the surface features and mine workings. Many mines ended up with a variety of entrances and exits, varying between large shafts some metres in diameter to small one-metre-square ladder or ventilation shafts. A working paper for the International Institute for Environment and Development attempted to put into perspective the scale of abandoned mine workings. It found that the problems in respect of abandoned mines were similar in many countries. It found that no country has a definitive abandoned mine list and that globally the number of abandoned mines runs into millions. Some countries had identified inventories of abandoned mines, but none appeared to have a dedicated and detailed database of all abandoned mines (IIED 2002).

The hazards created by old mine workings The International Institute for Environment and Development identified that globally, the most important issues of abandoned mines are the physical hazards (safety of excavations and structures) and environmental contamination; however, the focus of public opinion has usually been on visual impacts of mining (IIED 2002). The IIED also identified that accidents related to vertical openings or deteriorating structures are the most common cause of death and injury in abandoned mines. Having identified this potential for accidents, it appears that with the exception of the US Mine Safety and Health Administration (www.msha.gov), few statistics are kept relating to accidents involving abandoned mines. There appears to be no UK database of such incidents.

For this project, the main problem with old mine workings is the risk of accidental entry. Mine entrances invite exploration, varying from organised fully trained and equipped mining and caving club members, to the curious rambler. Mineshafts are obvious hazards and in addition to their depth, may be full of water (Plates 1.0 and 2.0).

The investigation of photo 1

Some mineshafts can take the form of ponds at the surface (Plate 2.0).

The investigation of plate 2

Mine adits (horizontal tunnels from the surface, or side of a hill for access or drainage), while less obviously a source of danger, have hazards such as collapses, becoming lost, sudden drops, internal shafts and ‘bad air’. Flooded mine tunnels can conceal hazards such as internal shafts, false floors and sharp objects. Many of the areas with a history of mining may now be scenic and seemingly unspoiled. Some are World Heritage sites, such as the Ironbridge Gorge or Blaenavon Industrial Landscape. Old mining areas may have an extensive public footpath network, with areas opened up by landowners and National Parks Authorities as recreation and historical sites. Such areas may attract many visitors, and guidebooks exist to satisfy the demand for walks and information.

The new ‘right to roam’ legislation – the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 – may mean that even more people will visit and instead of staying on the footpaths, they may choose to explore off the paths. Paths may run close to old mine openings, or even across the top of old shafts. Capped or infilled mineshafts, while not appearing to pose any immediate hazard, may collapse without warning.

The walls or linings of the shaft may fail, the cap or cover fail due to age, rot or corrosion, and backfilled shafts may subside as the fill compacts, or is washed out by underground streams or drainage adits. Some deeper mineshafts may pass through the remains of earlier abandoned shallow mines. These shafts may be particularly unstable, their linings prone to collapse, and the area affected by a shaft collapse much larger than normal. (DOE 1994). Where a shaft lining fails, it may form a cone or crater with steeply angled sides dropping into the shaft.

The cone may have loose unstable slopes, and should a person enter the cone, they may be at risk of sliding into the shaft (Plate 3.0).

The investigation of plate 3

Mine openings that have been capped or filled within recent years, may also be at risk of failure. The report “Treatment of Disused Mine Openings” (DOE, 1994) identified that certain widely used types of caps or fills may be unsuitable as long-term methods of sealing mineshafts. There have been recent suggestions that rising mine water levels may be having an impact on the stability of old mineshafts. Once a mine is abandoned, the deeper workings may be flooded to the level drained by any drainage adits, and in time these may collapse or become blocked. Rising mine water may be acidic and have a corrosive effect on shaft linings, leading to shaft collapse or fill or cap failure (SHMRAB 2005).

The legislation

There are three main sets of legislation that are significant in respect of the duties of local authorities in securing against accidental entry to abandoned mineshafts: The Mines and Quarries Act 1954, The Environmental Protection Act 1990 and The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

The Mines and Quarries Act 1954 (UK Government, 1954) Section 151 places a clear duty on mine owners to secure disused or abandoned mine openings against accidental entry and to maintain such devices. Two circumstances may apply, depending on the date the mine was last worked:

Mines worked since 9th August 1872. The owner of an abandoned mine has a duty to secure the surface entrance to every shaft or outlet to prevent accidental entry by means of an efficient enclosure, barrier, plug or other device and the duty extends to maintenance of these measures. If no device is provided to prevent such entry or it is not maintained, then the mine is likely to constitute a Statutory Nuisance.

Mines that closed before 9th August 1872. A mine that closed prior to this date, with a shaft or outlet not properly maintained or without a device to prevent accidental entry, and by reason of its accessibility from a highway or place of public resort constitutes a danger to the public, is also likely to constitute a Statutory Nuisance. The legislation and duty placed on mine owners applies to all types of mines as it refers to “every abandoned mine”.

There is, however, an exclusion for mines worked only before 9th August 1872. The final part of this exclusion causes confusion over whether Statutory Nuisance applies to coal, stratified ironstone, shale and fireclay mines. My view of this exclusion is that its actual meaning is as follows: The duty on mine owners to secure entrances shall apply to all mines worked after 9th August 1872, and that the duty does not extend to mines worked before the 9th August 1872, other than (i.e. the duty includes) mines of coal, stratified ironstone, shale or fireclay. This implies that the shaft or outlet of any abandoned coal, stratified ironstone, shale or fireclay mine, irrespective of date or location, which is not adequately secured against accidental entry, would be a Statutory Nuisance. For other types of mines, the two important issues are the date of last working and whether the mine is in a place of public resort or is accessible from the highway.

The Mines and Quarries Act does not define what it meant by place of public resort in respect of abandoned mine openings, nor what would constitute accessible from a highway. It is clear that immediately adjacent to a footpath or road would usually be considered accessible, but it is not so cut and dried in the case of mine entrances at greater distances away. A place of public resort would include a park or recreation area although case law appears to have established that any areas where the public frequent, even private land where there is no legal right of access, could also be considered a place of public resort.

The Environmental Protection Act 1990 (UK Government, 1990) Local authorities are under a duty to inspect their areas and to investigate complaints of Statutory Nuisance, under the Environmental Protection Act. Where a nuisance is identified or is considered likely to occur, the authority is required to take action. In the case of an abandoned mine, where the openings are unsecured and the mine was last worked after the 9th August 1872, or was last worked prior to 9th August 1872 and is accessible from a highway or place of public resort, or is an abandoned coal, stratified ironstone, shale or fireclay mine, then paragraph 79h “any other matter declared by any enactment to be a Statutory Nuisance”, applies. The local authority should then require the mine owner to secure the mine. Under the Environmental Protection Act, the owner or occupier of land can be required to take action or the local authority may undertake works in default or by agreement.

The Mines and Quarries Act allows the recovery by the landowner or occupier of any expenses they incur from the mine owners, following service of a notice by a local authority. Should the local authority carry out works in default following service of a notice, the authority may seek recovery of costs from the landowner or occupier who is then able to pursue the mine owners. It is, however, often difficult to trace the mine owner, old mining company or any person responsible for the mine and even when they are found it is not uncommon to discover that they have no assets or income. Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW) (UK Government, 2000) This Act came into effect in November 2000.

The Act gave a new right to walk freely over certain land which has been mapped as ‘Access Land’. This access land comprises registered common land, land dedicated by landowners as allowing public access, and areas of open country, mountain, moorland, heath and down. Some land already had public access: however for other land this is the first time access has been allowed, except for public rights of way. All access land is a place of public resort, and therefore all unsecured mine entrances, irrespective of date of last working, will be a statutory nuisance. Methodology The research has been carried out in two parts; a postal questionnaire to 112 local authorities in England and Wales followed up by further surveys of several local authorise to examine some issues in greater detail. The initial sample was selected by identifying counties where mining was believed to have occurred.

Local authorities within these counties were then selected randomly for inclusion in the questionnaire survey. Some local authorities in the selection passed the questionnaire onto other authorities for them to complete; data from these additional authorities were also included in analysis. A purposive sample of selected respondents was then used to gather more detailed information on selected issues raised in the initial survey. The initial questionnaire survey The questionnaire was designed to establish the following information: Whether local authority environmental health departments believe they have a role in dealing with abandoned mine workings; what legislation they are aware of; whether they have undertaken any action in relation to abandoned mine workings and entrances; whether the CROW Act 2000 has had any influence on the activities of environmental health departments regarding abandoned mines.

The questionnaire was sent primarily to areas where mining was believed to have occurred, but also included a number of authorities where it was suspected that there was no history of mining. The initial survey results The response rate for a survey of this nature was high at 52.6%. 47 of the responding authorities indicated that they had a history of mining in their areas, with 12 stating that they had no such history. It was encouraging to find that 69.5% of the respondents were aware of old mining as a potential issue for local authorities. This included six that identified that they had no history of mining in their area. Table 2.0 shows that of the 41 authorities that were aware that abandoned mine entrances could be the responsibility of the local authority, over 73% were aware of the correct legislation although not all of these were certain of the actual sections that applied. Of those 18 local authorities that were unaware of their potential roles in dealing with abandoned mine entrances, 12 did have a history of mining in their areas. The most common type of mining reported was coal, then sand, clay or stone. Many authorities had more than one type of mining. Of those with coal mining, eight authorities had just coal mining. As abandoned coal mines are the responsibility of the Coal Authority, those authorities with just coal mining have been excluded from the following assessments of the actions being taken, as it was not expected that they would have a particular need to take action.

Of the authorities with mining, there is a small majority 56.4% taking some action over abandoned mines, but with a significant minority taking no action. The actions taken are shown in Table 4.0.

The investigation of table 1

The majority of local authorities secured the entrances against entry when they were notified about open mine entrances, with a smaller number using another body to take action. Only five, however, were proactively inspecting their districts to identify areas of old mining and Statutory Nuisance mine entrances. Nine local authorities indicated that they had a specific council policy in respect of abandoned mines. Other local authorities did mention general nuisance or contaminated land policies that might be relevant, but these were not specific to abandoned mines.

It appears that there is a good level of awareness of the CROW Act among environmental health departments with a history of mining in their areas, with 77% knowing that this legislation has come into effect. 70% (27) were aware of land that had been opened up for public access in their areas. Of the 30% that did not know, several commented that as they were not the Countryside or Highways Department they would not be aware of access land. Of those aware of the CROW Act, only 23% identified that this new access land had had any impact on their approach to dealing with areas of old mining. The comments received from these authorities are given in Table 5.0. Only two authorities were actively surveying these new areas of public access. The follow-up surveys Having established the basic level of awareness in the initial survey, further work was undertaken. The earlier responses were broken down into five distinct groups:

  • A Those aware of the legislation and taking action
  • B Those aware of the legislation and taking no action
  • C Authorities with only coal mining
  • D Those unaware of the legislation
  • E Those with no mining

Specific questionnaires were sent to the first three groups.

Group A: Those aware of the legislation and taking action

For the group aware of the legislation and taking action, this questionnaire was designed to examine the extent of their actions in dealing with Statutory Nuisance mineshafts, including: whether they were proactively inspecting; how they secured or dealt with any open mine entrances; whether they re-inspected any mine entrances that had been secured; how they established mine ownership and date of last working; whether any notices had been served or works in default undertaken; whether they had been involved with any other organisations, such as National Parks Authority, open access officers or forums; whether the legislation included abandoned coal mines.

Group B: Those aware of the legislation and taking limited or no action

Within this group a small sample was sent a further short questionnaire to examine the reasons why no action was being taken. The questionnaire aimed to explore whether resources or other priorities prevented action being taken, and to find out what these authorities would do in the event of being notified of an open mineshaft in an area with public access.

Group C: Local authorities with coal mining only

Although it was thought at the start of the project that the Coal Authority would deal with any abandoned coal mines, correspondence with the Coal Authority indicated that there is in fact little proactive work being carried out nationally to identify abandoned coal mine entrances.

The Coal Authority, while willing to secure entrances to old coal mines, relied on notifications from other parties, including local authorities. The focus of this small area of research was to establish: whether any of the local authorities with only coal mines in their areas were inspecting for abandoned mines entrances; if any open coal mine entrances were found or notified to them, what steps they would take; whether they were in fact aware of the Coal Authority’s remit in securing unsecured coal mine entrances; whether these authorities thought that statutory nuisances applied to abandoned coal mines.

Results from Group A – Those aware of the legislation and taking action

Sixteen of the local authorities that appeared to be undertaking action over abandoned mine entrances were sent a short follow up questionnaire. Eight responses were received (50%). The responses are summarised below.

  • Awareness of the legislation

All of these authorities were aware of the legislation and its requirements, although one authority was of the opinion that abandoned coal mines are excluded from Statutory Nuisances as these are the responsibility of the Coal Authority.

  • Proactive inspection for mine entrances

Four of the authorities were inspecting or had inspected for unsecured mine entrances, one by an arrangement with their county council, and a further two believed they had come to an arrangement with their National Park Authority for Park Rangers to inspect in the National Park areas. (This later proved to be an incorrect understanding of the National Parks Authority position).

Two had no formal inspection programme, but had undertaken some limited survey work. The other two were not undertaking any routine inspections. Where do notifications of old mines originate? Notification of old mines was rare. Where authorities were notified, this was most often from members of the public although other sources included National Parks Rangers, the property/landowner, certain access groups and for one authority, a database of old mines that the Environment Agency holds. Action over unsecured mine entrances

The action taken over unsecured mine entrances in most cases involved a staged process of liaison with landowners, so obtaining works by agreement. Some authorities did have a risk-based approach and prioritisation system to deal with greatest hazards first. The service of legal notices was a last resort and did not normally occur. One authority had an agreement with the Coal Authority whereby any coal mine entrances that were found to be unsafe or unsecured the local authority could take immediate action to make the entrance safe, and then the Coal Authority would take over with a longer-term solution.

  • Criteria for securing mine entrances

All eight local authorities had very similar criteria for securing open mine entrances.

This related to the risk of the mine entrance itself, such as depth, size and other factors around the actual entrance; also the actual risk of public access to the site, factors such as accessibility from a highway, proximity to footpaths or place of public resort/access land. It appeared that each authority carried out a specific risk assessment for each site they became aware of. What are the preferred methods for securing entrances?

Figure 2.0 shows the most common methods for securing mine entrances was by fencing with warning signs.

The investigation of fig 2

The local authority that preferred capping had an arrangement with their county council that had a budget for such work. The local authority that deliberately did not specify a preferred option required the landowner to make the entrance safe and left it up to them. They pointed out that there were other agencies and considerations such as wildlife, conservation and archaeology that would need to be taken into account, and that it would be up to the landowner to manage this.

See also Plates 4.0 and 5.0.

The investigation of plate 5

 

Who is required to secure mine entrances? The most common answer was the landowner. One authority thought that they could only take action against the mine owner, while two authorities thought that the mineral rights owner could be required to act, with one stating that if the mineral rights owner could not be found then it would require the landowner to act. One authority pointed out that for coal mines it would require the Coal Authority to act. Re-inspection of secured entrances 50% of the local authorities do re-inspect areas where works have been carried out or have been required, and another local authority was intending to. One local authority in a National Park thought its Countryside Rangers carried out the re-inspection, but this later proved to be incorrect.

The other local authorities do not re-inspect. How do the authorities find land/mine owners and dates of last working? There was a range of approaches for identifying land and mine owners. These included: Countryside Rangers already knowing many landowners in a National Park area; using the Land Registry for registered landowners; serving ‘Requisition For Information’ on potential landowners and occupiers; local knowledge; using the Rural Payments Agency to identify landowners. For establishing details of mines, including minerals worked and date of last working, the approaches included: using county archives; mining reference books; local history and mining experts; local mining museum and library; minerals planning authority records; Environment Agency database for abandoned mines; searching websites. Service of Notices under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 requiring works, and carrying out works in default Five of the local authorities had not served any notices requiring works, two had and one thought they might have done in the past. Only one local authority had needed to carry out works in default.

Almost all the authorities who answered the question found that landowners had been co-operative; only in a couple of cases had there been delays or difficulties. Specific procedures and polices in respect of abandoned mine entrances None of the authorities had a specific procedure or policy concerning abandoned mine entrances, though one said that they were evolving such a policy. Contact with others Seven of the local authorities had been in contact with other agencies outside their councils, such as National Parks Authority, or Countryside Agency/Countryside Council for Wales. In terms of specific contact with Rights of Way, Access and Tourism Departments, only half of the local authorities had made such contact, mostly with Rights of Way Officers.

Three of the authorities thought they owned land on which there may be historical mining, and while two of the environmental health departments had been consulted about this land, one had not. Does the legislation apply to abandoned coal mines? Only three of the authorities had coal mining in their areas, and all were of the opinion that the legislation in terms of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 and Environmental Protection Act 1990 does apply to coal mines.

Particular problems in dealing with the issue of abandoned mine entrances

The questionnaire asked if there were any particular problems in dealing with abandoned mine entrances. The verbatim responses are shown in Table 6.0.

The investigation of table 3

Results from Group B – Those aware of the legislation and taking limited or no action

Eight of the local authorities that appeared to be undertaking only limited action were sent a short follow up questionnaire. Three responses were received which indicated that: all the authorities were aware of the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 and that open mine entrances could constitute Statutory Nuisances (it may, however be the case that only those more aware of this chose to complete and return the survey); in the event of being made aware of unsecured mine entrances, all would take steps to deal with them. Only one had actually received complaints or notifications from the public; two of the environmental health departments would deal with unsecured mine entrances themselves, while one would pass it to its countryside and estates and operations department to address.

At this point it looks as if these authorities, having been identified as taking limited action, are being more active than the initial survey indicated. Two of the authorities stated that their contaminated land strategies had helped to address this issue and it may be that such sites are being addressed, at least partly, through contaminated land functions and officers.

Two of the authorities also stated that as far as they were aware, all known shafts had been secured at this time. When the questionnaire asked about problems, however, one of the authorities indicated that there were insufficient resources to carry out proactive identification and locating of old mine entrances, and one indicated that they were not clear as to the responsibilities in their own authority for inspecting and dealing with old mining areas.

Results from Group C – Local authorities with coal mining only

Responses from seven of the local authorities in this category indicate as follows: Inspecting for abandoned mine entrances None of these authorities were inspecting for abandoned mine entrances. If any coal mine entrances were found or notified to them, what steps they would take? One authority did not know of any action they could take, one stated they would secure the mine entrance, one would refer the matter to a joint body set up with other local authorities, whilst only four would contact the Coal Authority.

Three of the authorities stated that they would contact the landowner, in two cases as well as the Coal Authority, in the other case as they dealt with it themselves. Awareness of the Coal Authority’s remit in securing coal mine entrances Four of these authorities were aware of the Coal Authority’s remit, though one local authority stated this was only in general terms. Two authorities were not aware of their role, while one authority would refer it to their joint body. Whether these authorities thought that the Statutory Nuisance applied to abandoned coal mines While four of the local authorities were aware of the legislation in terms of mine entrances being Statutory Nuisances, three were not. Only one was of the view that the legislation and duties applied to coal mines, one was of the opinion that it does not, while five did not know.

This contrasts with the responses from Group A where all of those with coal mining in their areas were of the opinion that the Mines and Quarries Act 1954 and Environmental Protection Act 1990 duties do apply to coal mines. Discussion There is a clear duty on local authorities to inspect their areas for Statutory Nuisance mineshafts under the Environmental Protection Act. The impact of the CROW Act is to increase the number of unsecured abandoned mine entrances that local authorities should be addressing. It appears from the surveys that awareness of the issue and activity by local authority environmental health departments is patchy, with good examples of proactive work in some areas, and in others little action.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act has had an impact on how some local authorities deal with the issue, but it appears that there has not been a great deal of contact between access officers and environmental health departments. Therefore, it is not known in many cases how the issues around mine workings are being addressed as land has been opened up. There are significant issues over the treatment of Statutory Nuisance mine entrances. There is no clear view of what is required, and while some variation is to be expected, the options used vary from filling and capping shafts to simple fences (Plates 4.0 and 5.0).

The degree of treatment possible or desirable is made more difficult by factors such as the impact on the visual amenity by large fences and walls, ecology, wildlife, scheduled monuments and maintaining our national heritage. There is a difficulty in determining what is required in terms of an efficient enclosure, barrier, plug or other device to prevent accidental entry.

This implies more than just safe routes or signs and would appear to require walls, fences, caps, plugs and grilles/gates. There is an issue around the inspection frequency for Statutory Nuisance mine entrances and the re-inspection of previously secured sites. Even where an authority has inspected all its area and has identified all open and Statutory Nuisance mine entrances, there will be an ongoing inspection requirement.

The status of land may change, meaning that mine entrances that are open, but are not Statutory Nuisances due to age and location, may become nuisances following the change, such as a new path being created or the land becoming a place of public resort. Mineshafts that are not open, or not even known about, may open up, particularly in the event of extreme weather conditions, events such as local earthquakes, changes to land use or blasting at a nearby quarry. Having secured a mine entrance, any abatement measures should be checked on a regular basis to ensure that the nuisance has not recurred. Where the local authority has carried out works on ‘orphan mines’, the authority is virtually duty bound to ensure its abatement works are maintained.

Conclusions The literature and earlier investigations indicate that mining has affected large areas of England and Wales, with potentially up to 300,000 mine entrances existing. There are very real safety risks created by some of these mine entrances. While some local authorities are routinely inspecting for and actively dealing with Statutory Nuisance mine entrances, many are not, either taking no action or purely reacting to notification or complaints. Most are not re-inspecting sites previously secured. The legislation concerning local authorities’ duties in respect of abandoned mines does not make easy reading, leading to confusion. Local authorities are under a duty to inspect their districts for all types of mining and have a duty to take action regarding Statutory Nuisance mine entrances. Abandoned coal mines, where they have entrances that are not secured, are Statutory Nuisances in all circumstances.

While there is a body set up to address coal mines, the Coal Authority, it does not currently have an active programme of inspection, relying on notifications from other authorities and bodies. Local authorities still have statutory powers of inspection over these mine entrances. All land opened up as 'access land' under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 will be a place of public resort. Therefore any open mine entrance on such land will be a Statutory Nuisance, irrespective of date of last working. It is essential that local authorities have an ongoing organised programme of inspection and monitoring of areas subject to historic mining. The inspection regime should record details of the condition of each mine entrance and potential mine entrance found, including photographs, descriptions of features, methods of closure or securing, and grid references. This will be important in identifying any changes in repeat surveys.

Where circumstances change, such as land being opened up for public access or new paths created, it is necessary for local authorities to re-inspect and assess the status of mine entrances. There appears to be little contact between local authorities and the Highways, access officers and National Parks officers on this issue. Within a National Park Authority, their Countryside Rangers or Wardens could, by agreement with the local authorities (or as well as the local authorities), carry out surveys inspections and re-inspections for abandoned mines, Statutory Nuisance mine entrances and methods of securing them.

This may be more effective and efficient than the piecemeal approach adopted by local authorities at present, but the National Parks Authorities may be reluctant to take on this role. And Government may need to provide guidance, encouragement and resources to enable this. Local authorities within National Park Authority areas should not assume that the National Park Authority is dealing with Statutory Nuisance mine entrances. While the National Park Authority may be able assist in a number of ways, the responsibility for dealing with these mine entrances lies with the local authorities.

Acknowledgements

DEFRA and the CIEH are acknowledged for financial support, Simon Reed of the Coal Authority, John Pickles of Craven District Council, Neil Corlett Isle of Man Government, and Alan Hulme and the Ranger Services of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority provided valuable information.

References

Coal Authority (2006). Personal communication re: coal mine entries, 21/3/2006. DOE (1994). “The Reclamation and Management of Metalifferous Mining Sites”. London, HMSO.

Department of the Environment (DOE) (1994). Minerals Planning Guidance: Treatment of Disused Mine Openings (MPG 12), London, HMSO. IIED (International Institute for Environment and Development) (2002). Mining for the Future – Appendix C: Abandoned Mines Working paper. Report commissioned by the Mining Minerals and Sustainable Development Project of the IIED No. 28 April 2002. NCB (1982). The Treatment of Disused Mine Shafts and Adits. National Coal Board.

Ove Arup/DOE (1992). Mining Instability in Great Britain – Summary Report, London, HMSO.

Rushton R N (1993). “South Shropshire Mines Investigation and Treatment”. Report for South Shropshire District Council.

SHMRAB (2005). Annual review 2005 – safety management. Safety and Health in Mines Research Advisory Board, Health & Safety Executive. Available online at www.hse.gov.uk [accessed 09/02/08].

UK Government (1954). Mines and Quarries Act. 1954, Chapter 70. Available online at: www.opsi.gov.uk [accessed 09/02/08].

UK Government (1990). Environment Protection Act. 1990, Chapter 43. Available online at www.opsi.gov.uk [accessed 09/02/08].

UK Government (2000). Countryside and Rights of Way Act. 2000, Chapter 37. Available online at: www.opsi.gov.uk [accessed 09/02/08].

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