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 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 ecomomic 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 geologcal 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


As of late 2013 this is basically just a knowledge dump by me, MikeCollinson (talk) 15:49, 30 October 2013 (UTC), 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).

Results from all over the UK can be seen on the Historic Britain overlay kindly developed and hosted by Graham Jones and also on this site, centred over Upper Wharfedale lead and coal mining.

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.


The most easily available resources are the Bing imagery, OS 25K and NPE 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 vegitation.

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


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

Node: A mine identified from OS 25K. Locations oftern 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.

Node: Know a bit more about this one

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 aearial imagery

A real example: http://www.openstreetmap.org/browse/node/1085481155

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