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Coal occurs as layers (‘seams’) in sequences of sedimentary rocks. Almost all onshore coal resources in the UK occur in rocks of 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 form large deposits in the North Sea basin and other offshore areas.

Further information is available in the BGS Coal Mineral 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. The map is available as paper copy from the BGS bookshop.

Surface mined coal statistics

The BGS MineralsUK website is the main portal for the ‘Survey of Surface Mined Coal’ statistics. The results of the Surface Mined Coal Survey for 2014 are available to download:

View the Surface Mined Coal Survey for 2014 (146 kb, pdf)

View the archive of previous years

The survey received the support of the Planning Officers' Society, the Coal Authority and the Confederation of UK Coal Producers (CoalPro). The BGS would like to acknowledge the help of the Coal Authority and the relevant Mineral Planning Authorities in England, Scotland and Wales for their invaluable assistance in collecting the information for this survey.

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.

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 Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities), this study assessed the impact on shallow coal resources of using separation zones around urban areas. The main report and appendices can be downloaded from here: Main Report, Appendices 1-3 and Appendices 4-6.