Mining in the United Kingdom – by Paul Boughton (Engineer Live – April 22, 2016)

Jon Lawson reports on the latest from an historically significant location for mining: the UK

Mining has had a long history in Britain, and greatly influenced its economic development. One of the earliest known mines is at Grime’s Graves in Norfolk, Eastern England, where Neolithic people excavated high quality flint over 5,000 years ago. They dug some 400 pits using tools made from deer antler.

In more modern times, the abundance of coal underpinned the industrial revolution, and at one time before WW1, one million men were employed underground and there were 200 pits in Wales alone. However the industry has declined, with many unprofitable pits closing during the Thatcher administration in the 1980s.

The last deep pit, Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire, closed at the end of 2015. With the closure was the loss of over 400 jobs. The remaining mines produce around 12 million tonnes per year.

To gain an understanding of the current state of mining in Britain, in February 2016 the CBI published a report entitled The UK Mineral Extraction Industry. Even at a glance, the numbers further underline the importance of Britain’s natural resources: 210 million tonnes of mineral extraction per year, turning over £15 billion, providing 34,000 direct jobs and 4.3 million across the whole supply chain. Altogether this makes up 16% of the total UK economic turnover.

The lion’s share is non-metallic, with around £6,133 million worth of building stone, limestone, gypsum, chalk and slate being produced, and £7,049 million worth of sand, gravel and china clays.

Many other materials are mined, including salt (6.6 million tonnes), peat (1 million tonnes) and potash (0.9 million tonnes).

That last figure looks set to be dramatically expanded with the news that the Sirius York Potash Project is now entering a crucial stage, and the Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) is to be published as International Mining Engineer (IME) goes to press. The company says in a statement, “The completion of a DFS for such a large scale project is a very detailed process and there is a large amount of complex information from various suppliers, consultants and engineering firms that needs to be compiled, reviewed and then integrated into the final DFS. While this process is time consuming, it is vitally important for a project with an expected life of over 100 years that it is robust.”

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