Mining has occurred in Great Britain since approximately 2700 BC. A diverse range of minerals has been extracted by underground mining across the country, ranging from industrial minerals like limestone, through to precious metals like gold. Plans, sections and shaft information exist which record many of these workings. However, with the exception of coal mining there has been no co-ordinated effort to catalogue and create a national database of these records. A variety of collections, catalogues and indexes exist in disparate public and private hands but these, individually, cover only parts of the total holding thought to be in excess of 40 000 documents.
The voids caused by underground mining activity may pose a potential hazard, to both life and assets and the risk of ground movement can reduce property values. Further, mineral workings and associated spoil can frequently cause a pollution hazard. Mining records can provide important cultural information on the distribution and past extraction of mineral resources and are a key source of information for geological surveying and scientific research. However, safety, the risk to health and the physical threat to property and the real or perceived impact on property values are the most compelling reasons for action to establish a coherent national database of non-coal mine plans.
In 2002 senior representatives of the Health and Safety Executive, The National Archives, The Coal Authority, the British Geological Survey, the Mineral Valuer (part of The Valuation Office Agency), and the Camborne School of Mines (HSE, TNA, CA, BGS, MV and CSM) met to discuss strategies and the scope of the task to create a national database of non-coal mine plans and sections. There was unanimous agreement on the following:
- There should be a digital register (index or catalogue) of all known non-coal underground mine plans, sections and entrances and that this should be made publicly available.
- It was neither practical nor desirable to physically transfer all non-coal underground mine plans and sections to one location. Thus where plans are held locally they should remain so.
- The digital register should hold information on both formal 'abandonment' plans and any other non-coal underground mine plans and sections.
- Following completion of the version 1 of register a costed proposal to digitally scan all available non-coal underground plans and sections should be prepared.
The HSE, TNA, CA, BGS and MV have agreed to work together and support the above proposals.