UK Coal operates two deep mines and several surface mines.
Our deep mines produce over 3m tonnes of coal per year and use some of the most advanced mining techniques employed anywhere in the world. Our surface mines produce around 1.8m tonnes of coal per year and we have won many awards for our restoration projects.
UK Coal’s two deep mines produce around 60,000 tonnes of coal a week and most of this is used to generate electricity for the UK market. Our two collieries, Kellingley and Thoresby, use modern mining techniques and have benefitted from major investment in recent years.
Deep mining operations take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with each mine employing a highly skilled and experienced workforce.
Our deep mines
Kellingley Colliery is the largest remaining deep mine in Yorkshire and began production in April 1965. Up to 900 tonnes of coal an hour can be brought to the surface through one of two 800 metre-deep shafts. The Beeston coal seam, which is currently being mined, is predicted to last until at least 2015, after which further reserves will be accessible in the Silkstone coal seam.
Thoresby Colliery in Nottinghamshire dates back to 1925 when two shafts were sunk 691 and 688 metres below ground to the Top Hard coal seam. Current operations in the Deep Soft coal seam are approximately 750 metres below ground and the mine’s reserves are expected to last until at least 2019.
To create a panel of coal in preparation for mining, two parallel tunnels are driven through a coal seam and joined together at the end via a third tunnel to create a coal face which can be over 300 metres long.
A piece of heavy duty cutting equipment, called a ‘shearer,’ is then installed to move along the coal face in strips, breaking the coal which falls onto a conveyor belt and is transported out of the mine.
This machinery operates under the cover of large hydraulic roof supports called 'chocks'. Up to 300 individual roof supports can be used on each face and these have to be moved after each strip has been cut to advance the machinery in readiness for the next cut.
The process is repeated as operations ‘retreat’ from the far end of the panel back to the beginning of the access tunnels until the face is exhausted and no more coal can be mined. While the face teams mine the coal from one panel, others drive the tunnels to prepare the next panel of coal to ensure continuous production all year round.
Surface mining is the extraction of coal from seams lying just below the surface of the land.
Unlike deep mining, where shafts are sunk to depths of up to 800 metres or more, our surface sites extract coal from depths of between 40 to 150 metres. The UK’s coal reserves have been extensively mapped and recorded over the years and our challenge is to extract coal from surface mines using methods that are both commercially viable and environmentally sensitive.
Currently, UK Coal has six operational surface mines in the North East, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Shropshire.
Our surface mining operations
Where a potential site is identified, a full environmental impact assessment is carried out and a comprehensive planning application prepared and submitted following extensive public consultation.
When permission has been granted, the first stage is the removal of topsoil and subsoil to gain access to the coal seams. These soils are catalogued and stored on site to be reused in the restoration process.
During mining, these soils are usually stored in mounds that form a visual and noise barrier to reduce the effect of the site and the operations on the surrounding area. All sites have environmental monitoring equipment to check that permitted levels of noise and dust, for example, are not exceeded.
The typical working life of a surface mine is between three to five years, with further restoration work taking five to ten years.