BGS logoMineralsUK logo


Coal occurs in the form of layers (‘seams’) in sequences of sedimentary rocks. Almost all onshore coal resources in the UK occur in rocks of the Carboniferous age, which also extend into the North Sea. Individual seams are up to 3.5m in thickness (thicker seams are also known). Resources of coalbed methane (CBM) are found exclusively in Carboniferous coals. In Northern Ireland lignite, or ‘brown coal’, of Tertiary age is a significant resource, which could be used in power generation. In Great Britain coals of Mesozoic and Tertiary age are insignificant onshore but form large deposits in the North Sea basin and other offshore areas.

Further information is available in the BGS Coal Commodity Profile and the BGS Coal and coalbed methane mineral planning factsheet. Details of individual operating coal mines can be found in the BGS Directory of Mines and Quarries.

Coal resources map of Britain

The BGS and the Coal Authority have produced a map showing the distribution of UK coal resources, both onshore and offshore. The map provides a synopsis of both areas of possible future developments and potential hazards due to past mining. It includes:

  • inset maps showing details of the individual coalfields at 1:400 000 scale;
  • the extent of coal resources, exposed and concealed;
  • coal resources, shown as four categories based on depth and mining history;
  • contours on both top and bottom of the Westphalian Coal Measures;

The map is available as paper copy from the BGS bookshop.

Surface mined coal statistics

Comprehensive statistics on surfaced mined coal were, until 1999, published by the Planning Officers' Society. In collaboration with the Coal Authority and Planning Authorities, the BGS have continued the collation and publication of coal statistics. This survey will provide a vital input to monitoring Government policies for the development of the nation's shallow coal resources, and covers individual Mineral Planning Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales. The BGS MineralsUK website is the main portal for the current UK Surface mined coal statistics and the archive of past coal statistics. In addition, the information is also be summarised in the BGS United Kingdom Minerals Yearbook.

Summary of information on coal for land-use planning purposes

The BGS has produced a Summary of information on coal for land use planning purposes. This report brings together previously dispersed publicly available background information on coal supply from a number of sources including the Coal Authority, the Department of Trade and Industry and BGS. It is hoped that this summary will provide a convenient reference source that will be of use to Regional Assemblies in preparing Regional Spatial Strategies, Mineral Planning Authorities (MPAs) in preparing mineral development documents, and industry and MPAs when preparing and considering planning applications. It may also be of use to devolved administrations.

Investigating the influence of settlement pattern and morphology on the sterilisation of shallow coal resources

Undertaken on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government (now Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), this study assessed the impact on shallow coal resources of using separation zones around urban areas.

Main Report:

Appendices 1-3:

Appendices 4-6: