Dealing with Britain's coal-mining past

What happens when the government’s growth aspirations collide with Britain’s coal mining legacy? Jamie Carpenter investigates

Subsidence underneath a residential driveway. Photograph: The Coal Authority
Subsidence is one of the risks posed to developments by old coal mining operations. Photograph: The Coal Authority

Britain’s coal industry is in its death throes. Just a handful of working surface mines remain in operation, while generation is declining sharply ahead of a government commitment to take action to regulate the closure of unabated coal power generation units by 2025. Nevertheless, the legacy of coal retains a staggering impact. According to estimates from The Coal Authority (TCA), the non-departmental public body responsible for managing the effects of past coal mining, coalfields cover 11% of Britain. Seven million properties are in coalfield areas, the body estimates, with 1.5 million of those properties sitting on shallow workings – the most susceptible to risk.

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