What To Do If Your House Sits Over A Mine

coal mine

So you've bought a house that sits on an old mine site and it's sinking… what should you do, who can you call? Find out here.

By Caroline Rodrigues

What Are The Tell-Tale Signs?

The house that’s your pride and joy caving in due to subterranean mining tunnels is a horror story no-one wants to witness. However, according to the Coal Authority, there are 7.7 million properties across the coalfields, of which 2 million may have the risk of potential problems from previous mining. There are records of over 171,000 coal mine entries, though more may exist.

Hazards include:

  • The collapse of shallow workings.
  • Risk of entry into mine shafts.
  • Methane and carbon dioxide emissions.
  • Spontaneous combustion or ignition of coal leading to the production of carbon monoxide.
  • Transmission of gas into adjacent properties from underground sources through ground fractures.
  • Subsidence.
  • Water emissions.

In the South West, and particularly Cornwall, tin and copper were once intensively mined, leaving a legacy of problems today. A mineshaft abandoned many years ago could have been built over with no records at all of what is lurking beneath. Old timber caps over mineshafts can collapse due to age, leading to subsidence. And if the workings are below the foundations of your home, there are serious implications.

What Should You Do?

Heed The Warning Signs

If you spot any danger signs of subsidence in your home, such as cracks in walls, several causes are possible, and the problem may not be due to mining at all. The first port of call is a chartered surveyor (find one at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) and structural engineer (at Institution of Structural Engineers) who can identify the problem and put you in touch with a specialist if necessary. Inform your mortgage lender and insurance company.

Find Out If Your Home Is At Risk

  • To see if your home is at risk from previous coal mining, you can use a postcode search at coal.gov.uk, and order an all-in-one Enviro or Coal Mining report.
  • The Coal Authority is carrying out a programme of mine entry inspections; if you live in an affected area you may already have had a visit. The good news is that 99% of the shafts visited need no further action. If theres a known shaft on your property or near you call 0845 762 6848 for an appointment.
  • Before buying a property in a known mining region, an Archival Mining Report or Mine Search Report is highly advisable and the mortgage company may insist on one. This will identify any records of previous mining.

Carry Out A Site Investigation

If a mining report identifies former workings, or if they are suspected, a site investigation by a specialist company is the next step, which involves drilling holes beneath the house to prove it stands on firm ground. A full structural mining report will supply further information and geological details. Often the problem can be fixed, and the building can be insured and mortgaged once again.

Building Near A Mine Shaft

If you want to build above or near a mine shaft, the Coal Authority can advise. You may need permission as disturbing old mines can be dangerous, and you should inform any contractor about it.

Householder development such as extensions and alterations will not require a Coal Mining Risk Assessment for a planning application under the new risk-based process being rolled out.

Local planning authorities will issue an informative note for this type of development. Contact your council’s planning department, or call the Coal Authority’s building advice line, 0845 762 6848, for more information.

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