Towards a Minerals Local Plan for Derbyshire and Derby

Towards a Strategy for Coal


  • Introduction

1.1    Background

The coal mining industry forms an integral part of the social, economic and environmental history of Derbyshire and Derby, especially since the late 19th Century. The industry has taken advantage of the extensive reserves of coal found in the area and influenced how and where the area has grown, the number and type of jobs available, the prosperity of the area and how it now looks. These important aspects of the areas’ history and the legacy it has left will have a bearing on the future role of coal in the new Minerals Local Plan (MLP).

1.2    Location of Coal Resources in Derbyshire and Derby

There are two main coalfields within the Plan area. The Northern Derbyshire Coalfield is the southern part of the much wider Yorkshire/Nottinghamshire/Derbyshire coalfield stretching from Leeds in the north to Nottingham in the south. The South Derbyshire Coalfield is part of the Midlands Coalfield, which extends from Staffordshire in the west through southern Derbyshire (around Swadlincote) into Leicestershire. Smaller reserves can also be found in the north-west of the County between Charlesworth and Whaley Bridge, but these are not, generally, of commercial quality. Although the mining industry has extracted a large amount of coal from these areas, it is known that considerable resources still remain. The coalfields do not extend into the Derby City area.

1.3    Methods of Extraction

Coal extraction in the Plan area has employed two principal methods. The main method has been by underground working of the deeper lying seams. Deep mine collieries were established in the late 19th Century and by the middle of the 20th Century around 60,000 people were employed in over fifty collieries. As the older mines working the shallower seams closed, working became concentrated on the newer mines to the east, working the deeper, more profitable seams. The decline in mining activity continued during the 1970s and 1980s and the last three remaining British Coal collieries at Bolsover, Markham and Shirebrook closed in 1993 and the last operational colliery in the South Derbyshire Coalfield area at Cadley Hill (near Swadlincote), closed in 1988. The only remaining colliery in the Plan area is the drift mine at Eckington.

As a result of a programme which commenced in the 1960s most of the former colliery sites and the associated spoil tips have been remediated. Some of the former colliery sites have been redeveloped providing sites for new industrial and business uses. Some of the former tips have been reshaped and landscaped to reduce their physical presence and help them assimilate into the surrounding areas. The screening methods employed at the collieries were inefficient and resulted in quantities of coal being deposited in the spoil tips along with the other materials. As the value of these materials has risen some of the tips have been re-worked. For example the tip associated with the former Brookhill Colliery (Pinxton in Derbyshire) and Langton Colliery (near Kirkby in Ashfield in Nottinghamshire) has recently been reworked to extract the coal. This has also enabled the tip to benefit from a major new restoration and landscaping scheme.

The working of shallower seams by modern surface mining methods began in Derbyshire in the 1940s to help supply the Country’s war-time energy needs. Since then a large proportion of the area of the shallow coalfield has been worked with annual output reaching a peak of 2.7 million tonnes in 1956. Thereafter, output has fluctuated but on an overall declining trajectory. In April 2013, there was only one operational surface mine in Derbyshire at Lodge House near Smalley. Derbyshire County Council has also resolved to grant permission for a further site in the Smalley area known as George Farm.

The legacy of these methods of extraction of coal in the Plan area, in combination with the other traditional industries which flourished in the area due to the availability of the coal, has resulted in adverse cumulative impacts on the area.


Further more detailed information regarding cumulative impact is available in the Cumulative Impact Supporting Paper, January 2015.

1.4    Types of Coal   

There are two main types of coal which have been worked in Derbyshire; thermal or steam coal, used for burning in power stations and in other industrial and domestic uses, and coking or metallurgical coal, used in the steel industry to de-oxidise iron ore in the blast furnace. Recent operations have been focused on thermal coal.

Further more detailed information regarding the history of coal mining in the Plan area, the fluctuation in demand and price of coal, the extent of remaining reserves, the quality of the coal and the type of uses which can be made of it, is available in the Deep Mined Coal and Surface Coal Mining Supporting Paper, December 2014.