GB geology with Minecraft

OS data above ground; BGS data below.

Animation showing how to get to the resources folder, into which the world is saved.

Inspired by the Ordnance Survey (OS), BGS has reproduced the 2D geology of mainland Great Britain and surrounding islands within the world of Minecraft. This map shows the OS map data on the surface and the rough position of real geology beneath, repeated down to the bedrock.

In reality the geology varies with depth, like cake layers, and BGS is working on representing the arrangement of the rocks and sediments in the form of a 3D geological model. Watch this space!

NEW! 3D geological models in Minecraft

Following on from the scale model of Great Britain, BGS has taken another step into the world of Minecraft by creating three-dimensional representations of geology at several locations across the country. These models show how the geology rises and falls, overlaps and folds and at different depths.


  • A licenced copy of Minecraft
  • 6 GB free disk space: the world is approximately 5.4 GB uncompressed
  • More than 4 GB of RAM


  • Download the archive around 369 MB zip
  • Unzip the archive to a temporary location
  • Start Minecraft
  • On the home screen click 'Options'
  • Click 'Resource Packs'
  • Click 'Open resource pack folder'. This will open a new window showing the contents of your Minecraft 'Resource packs' folder
  • Navigate to the folder above (called .minecraft on Windows)
  • Open the 'Saves' folder
  • Move the unzipped archive to this 'Saves' folder
  • Start Minecraft and select 'Single player'. When prompted to select a world, choose BGS GB geology with OS


The starting point is at the BGS Cardiff office. Around you will be signposts with information to get you started.

Once you've got your bearings you can fly around the landscape by double tapping and holding the spacebar or by teleporting to other parts of the Great Britain geological map.

To teleport to another part of Great Britain you will need to find its co-ordinate. You can use this web map to navigate to a familiar location. The co-ordinate for this position is shown in the bottom of the map.

Once you know the co-ordinate, you can use these values with the teleport command:

/tp 6282 10 22365

If you can see this message, there is likely a problem loading the Overviewer javascript components. Check the javascript console for error messages.

How we built it

Illustrating how the geology blocks (such as sand, cobblestone, redstone ore, glowstone, stained clay) are repeated from the bedrock layer up to the elevation model height and OS block (grass block).

Using the methodology developed by the OS, we wrote computer software to programmatically generate the GB geology world in the Anvil file format.

For each 100 x 100 km grid square:

  • Load height data from an elevation map of Great Britain, using a modified and scaled version of NEXTMap Britain data
  • Load geology data from the BGS 1 km Soil Parent Material dataset
  • Load OS VectorMap® District raster files
  • Create chunks using the height data to add blocks repeatedly up to the desired height using the real world geology for that location
  • For the topmost block, decide the material which matches the OS VectorMap® District data
  • Compile groups of 32 x 32 chunks into regions
  • Compile all the files together into one ZIP file

Minecraft blocks

What data did we use?

To do this, we have used BGS's Soil Parent Material dataset. A parent material is a soil science name for a weathered rock or deposit from, and within which, a soil has formed.

In the UK, parent materials provide the basic foundations and building blocks of the soil, influencing their texture, structure, drainage and chemistry.

By using the parent material dataset we can get a general understanding of the types of geology to be found across Great Britain.

How did we assign real world geology to an equivalent Minecraft block?

In order to represent the geology found across Great Britain, BGS geologists were involved to select suitable Minecraft blocks for the parent material types. To do this they tried to find the best match in terms of hardness, texture and appearance. The table below shows how we've assigned each parent material type.

Parent material Minecraft block Comments
Limestones, dolomites, chalk and other calcareous rocks Stone Stone This block was chosen for its visual appearance of a limestone
Colluvium, till, loess, alluvial deposits and other minor superficial deposits Dirt Dirt This block was chosen for all superficial deposits except peat, sand and gravel
Clastic rocks, breccia, calc-silicate rocks Cobblestone Cobblestone This block was also chosen for miscellaneous sedimentary rocks
Superficial deposits of mainly sandy composition Sand Sand Self-explanatory
Glaciofluvial deposits and superficial deposits of mainly gravelly composition Gravel Gravel Self-explanatory
Rocks composed predominantly of sandstone and siltstone Sandstone Sandstone Self-explanatory
Basalts Obsidian Obsidian Obsidian was chosen as the closest relative to extrusive rocks
Quartz rich rocks and quartzite Nether quartz ore Nether quartz ore This block was chosen to resemble the mineral appearance of quartz.
Chert and chert rich rocks Redstone ore Redstone ore This block was chosen for its appearance
Not mapped by Soil Parent Material dataset Ice Ice Areas under water have not been mapped by BGS and we chose ice blocks to represent these areas
Peat Soul sand Soul sand This block was chosen for its sinking characteristics, which are similar to a peat bog
Halites Glowstone Glowstone This block was chosen for its similarity with salt
All intrusive and metamorphic rocks End stone End stone This block was chosen for its hard characteristics
Serpentinite Emerald ore Emerald ore This block was chosen for its colour resembling the mineral serpentine
Unconsolidated clays of various origins (lacustrine, fluvial, residual) Yellow stained hardened clay Yellow stained hardened clay This block and colour was chosen as most of these clays have a yellowish colour
Rocks composed of predominantly mudstones Brown stained hardened clay Brown stained hardened clay This block and colour was chosen as most mudstones have a brownish colour

How did we assign real world OS map data to an equivalent Minecraft block?

Using the methodology developed by the OS, we took the data from the OS VectorMap® District raster to decide the material of each block.

OS VectorMap® feature Minecraft block
Motorways Diamond Diamond
A roads Emerald Emerald
B roads Pumpkin Pumpkin
Minor roads Gold Gold
Water Water Water
Foreshore Sand Sand
Forest Leaves Leaves
Plains Grass Grass
Built-up areas Brick Brick


Minecraft is ©2009–2014 Mojang AB.

NEXTMap Britain elevation data from Intermap Technologies.

Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right 2014.

Ordnance Survey and Joseph Braybrook for the initial concept.

Error processing SSI file
Error processing SSI file