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Coal occurs as layers ('seams') within sequences of sedimentary rocks. Almost all onshore coal resources in the UK occur in rocks of Carboniferous age, which also extend under the North Sea. Individual seams are generally up to 3.5 m in thickness but thicker seams are known. Resources of coalbed methane (CBM) are found exclusively in Carboniferous coals.

In Great Britain, coals of Mesozoic and Tertiary age form large deposits in the North Sea basin and other offshore areas.In Northern Ireland, lignite or 'brown coal' of Tertiary age is a significant resource that could be used in power generation.

For more information:

Coal resources map of Britain

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 areas of possible future developments and potential hazards due to past mining. The map is available as a paper copy from theBGS bookshop.

Surface-mined coal statistics

The results of the surface-mined coal survey for 2014 are available to download. You can also access an archive of previous years.

The survey of surface-mined coal received the support of the Planning Officers' Society, the Coal Authority and the Confederation of UK Coal Producers (CoalPro). 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 the survey.

Summary of information on coal for land-use planning purposes

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 (former) 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 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities), this study assessed the effect of using separation zones around urban areas on shallow coal resources.