When you are buying a house, your lawyer may consider it is necessary to carry out a mining search. The purpose of this search is to find out if there is any likelihood of mining activity having been carried on beneath the property you are looking at or in the nearby area.
Buyers often question why it is thought necessary to make a mining search when there is no sign of any mines having existed in the area. The answer is that when mines are closed, they leave little or no evidence on the surface but can still cause major problems for property owners.
Mine-workings often run long distances underground from the mine shafts and extend beneath residential properties. When old tunnels and shafts cave in, this is likely to cause subsidence and damage to buildings above the mine.
Old mine shafts were often not properly capped or filled in when the mine closed. Cases are reported regularly of old shafts collapsing, causing damage to houses as well as being dangerous for residents.
There are also environmental issues associated with old mine workings – for example, spoil may have been dumped over a wide area that can contain dangerous naturally occurring elements such as arsenic. Water flowing through an old mine may become contaminated and cause soil contamination in surrounding land, while explosive gases can still build up in abandoned coal mines.
The value of a property can be severely reduced if it is discovered that it is potentially affected by mining activity or that mining activity could take place in the future. This is also likely to affect buildings insurance premiums.
Consequently, your lawyer will recommend buyers have a mining search carried out if a property is in an affected area. Mortgage lenders will insist on such a search when a mortgage is being obtained, and the Law Society advises it even when no mortgage is required.
Coal has been the most commonly worked mineral, with mines having existed in many parts of the country. Fortunately, the Coal Authority has fairly comprehensive records of where coal has been mined, as well as surveys showing where coal seams are known to exist. A coal mining search can be made to discover what information there is relating to the property.
Although it is well-known that coal mining took place in some areas, in others, its previous existence is less commonly known. So, if your conveyancing solicitor says a coal mining search is necessary for a property in, say, Gloucestershire, Somerset, Kent or Lincolnshire – or even parts of Devon – he or she has not taken leave of his senses, as coal has been mined in all these counties.
A coal mining search provides information on the following:
- past, present and future underground coal mining;
- mine shafts and adits;
- coal mining geology;
- past, present and future opencast coal mining;
- coal mining subsidence (damage notice/claim/method of discharge of any remedial obligations/stop notice/request for preventive works);
- mine gas emissions;
- incidents dealt with under the Authority’s emergency surface hazard call out procedure.
Additional advice may also be included where appropriate, depending on the mining circumstances.
While there is little underground mining being carried on at present, coal is still being worked by open-cast mining. This involves stripping the soil and rock overlying a coal seam, removing the coal, then reinstating the land. Such work will be carried on over a large area and involves heavy earth-moving machinery. The coal mining search will show if any such activity is planned in the vicinity of a property.
One of the benefits of having an official coal mining search carried out is that it includes insurance cover against any loss of value (up to a maximum of £50,000) attributable to any material change of any of the information in a subsequent search report from that contained in the report to which the insurance attaches. This cover is in addition to any right to claim compensation for subsidence.
Information as to whether there has been past mining in your area can be found at the Coal Authority’s website:
For more information about searches or how Alexander JLO can assist with your Conveyancing please call one of our expert Property Lawyers