Historic mining activity in the United Kingdom

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The impact of mining and quarrying in the UK over the past 2,000 years have left an indelible but often subtle mark on the modern surface landscape. This is a project to map that, initially for the benefit of walkers and anyone interested in the landscape they are passing by and ultimately as a potential nationally collated resource for historic economic history research.


Short Term

  • Map locations of old mines and individual mine shafts and adits in quantity over the UK.
  • Preferably identify the primary mineral extracted, such as coal, lead, tin.
  • Have them appear as small symbols on main OSM map for the interest of hikers.
  • Produce simple distribution maps.

Medium term

  • Cross reference with historical and geological record.
  • Confirm or delete tentative identifications.
  • Add names and one line "interest" description.
  • Identify either specific start/finish years or identify UK historic period.

Long Term

Develop into a nationally collated historic mining activity resource with sufficient quality control to make it useful to amateur and professional historians. At some point the resource will probably need spinning off into a separate database or into Open_Historical_Map


I, MikeCollinson started this in 2013, in the hope of getting others involved elsewhere in the country and a consensus on tagging schema. I map in the upper reaches of Wharfedale (Yorkshire), Teasdale (Yorkshire/Co. Durham) and Weardale (Co. Durham). I've now mapped hundreds, possibly thousands of historic shafts and many mines.

Unfortunately, there is no real way of viewing the results. I use my own Android app for my local area and would be happy to create it for other areas if anyone wants.

Should it be in OpenStreetMap?

The initial objective is to map the visible traces of mine shafts, adits, spoil heaps and ruined structures such smelters and smelting flues. So yes.

Extending that to mapping in urban areas where visible traces are really, really gone is much more questionable. It best to avoid this until we can have an "Open Mining Map" or similar into which all the mapping can be migrated in bulk.


Feel free to comment and extend on this set of examples:


Node: A mine identified from OS 25K. Locations often may need to be approximate until you have been there as OS 25K often labels such features without provided a map symbol at an exact location. For 19th century mining, the National Library of Scotland https://maps.nls.uk 6" OS maps are potentially very useful but not certain whether we can extract data for OSM use - I am in a conversation with them about that.

Node: Know a bit more about this one

A real example: https://www.openstreetmap.org/node/766851433

Other useful tags:

Mine access - shafts and adits

Node: An individual mine shaft or bell pit. These are are easy to spot on Bing imagery. They often have a raised lip of spoil around them which helps distinguish from sink holes. I have used lower case letters in the name where there is no known formal name.

Node: An individual mine adit, a horizontal tunnel driven for access, ventilation or water flow purposes. These are not usually visible on aerial imagery but often well preserved on the ground.

Node: In limestone areas, it can be difficult to distinguish sink holes (shake holes) so I map both for statistical outlining of possible mining activity.

Way (area): Sometimes there are just too many shafts to mark individually. Here I am being a little inconsistent by marking it as an archaeological_site, which it is, so that it shows up on regular maps. Ugh, tagging for the renderer! http://www.openstreetmap.org/edit#map=17/54.07588/-1.81215

Mining features

Buildings and ruined buildings are obviously easy to map.

Old mining ponds can either be mapped as natural=water if they still have water in them, else natural=wetland when there is still an obvious wet depressed area. Existing parts of dams are also quite easy to see on the ground and can be mapped with waterway=dam as an area or line way.

Spoil and slag heaps are easy to see in the field and on imagery:

In the northern Pennines, one mining feature that makes a huge visual impact on the landscape are "hushes". This is the practice of damming water at the top of a stream and then breaking the dam so that the flood water strips all the surface soil away and exposes potential mineral veins. I've had trouble finding a good solution and currently reverse the existing embankment key, (which itself can be useful) as:

A smelt mill is often associated with a mine and may consist of a (ruined) building, flue, and, if lucky, part of a chimney. I've not found a good tagging solution for flues.

Other useful tags:


Where a quarry is still very visually obvious, I use:

and where subtle, for example now a wood, just:

I decided to use "mineral" to cover anything extracted: minerals, ores, rock and peat.


The most easily available resources are the Bing imagery, OS 25K and other out-of-copyright OS layers available under all popular OSM editors.

Bing imagery can provide a spectacular view of old shafts in areas you have walked passed a 100 times and never noticed. Shafts and associated spoil heaps can be seen. Beware that these can also be confused with natural sink holes in limestone areas and shooting butts, so your identification may have to be tentative. In lead mining areas at least, a tell-sign that these really are the result of mining is an appropriate hideous bilious green tinge to the vegetation.

Out of copyright Geological Survey treatises and maps may also provide a resource of OS map-reference tagged information.