What is coal mining risk assessment?
The mining of coal and other minerals has left a long and usually hidden legacy across our country. Its potential impact on property transactions is highly variable and depends on what was mined and to which depth. Often, there are few records for informal shallow mines, while there are extensive records that are now widely available of extensively previously worked coal seams that now lie idle.
Anyone buying property in a former or current coalmining area is strongly advised to do a coal mining risk assessment or search. Property near to both past and current mining activities can be at risk of subsidence because of being on unstable ground. This could disrupt the quiet enjoyment of the home and as well as reduce the value of the property and its land.
Coal's Dirty Footprint
Almost a third of buildings (29%) in the UK are underlain by coal mines – in total about 11% of the UK landmass is classed as being within a coalfield area.
The coalfield is divided into 2 areas, referred to as Development High Risk Area and Development Low Risk Area:
- the High Risk Area (15% of the coalfield area) is where coal mining risks are present at shallow depth which are likely to affect new development
- the Low Risk Area (85% of the coalfield) is where past coal mining activity has taken place at sufficient depth that it poses low risk to new development
Coal Mining Risk Reports
Mining reports provide information on past, present and future underground and surface coal mining activity for any individual property or site in England and Wales.
The CON29M is a legal form, approved by The Law Society that is usually requested by a residential or commercial conveyancer as part of a package of relevant property searches undertaken ahead of exchange on a property or site that is in an area of past coal mining.
This gives information on:
- mine entries within 20 metres of a property’s boundaries
- gas emissions from coal mines
- other coal mining hazards reported in the area
- plans for future coal mining in the area
Typically, the CON29M form may raise questions which usually needed further interpretation and additional reports, at an extra cost to the client, which may cause delays.
The Need for More Detail
The Law Society has recently recognised that coal mining risk is a broader issue, given that there are potentially wider problems from shallow coal mining, as well as those from other mining activities, such as chalk, metals and brine. In 2018, they updated their guidance at the same time as the Coal Authority made their datasets widely available to interpret in more detail.
A new breed of CON29M report, such as that available from Future Climate Info, now offers a clear, professional opinion for lenders, conveyancers and homeowners alike. It also includes previously unanswered questions such as: “is the property susceptible to coal mining-related subsidence?”; “Will coal mining hinder the completion of the transaction?”; “Will coal mining impact the value of the property and “will coal mining impact normal lending processes?”
It’s also backed by comprehensive terms and conditions, with liability for the outcomes of the report transferred away from the homebuyer, lender and solicitor.
Mining subsidence can have a significant impact on insurance and the availability of lending. The increase in sinkhole activity in recent years has highlighted this. Improved data processes, risk screening and assessment has armed lenders with a better understanding of what coal mining risks face the property they’re lending on and how a transaction be progressed.Here are some more illustrations of the potential risks that homebuyers could face