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Mining industry in the United Kingdom - statistics & facts

The United Kingdom is home to many natural mineral deposits, from fossil fuels such as coal, metals such as tin and copper, and industrial minerals like china clay. Even precious metals such as gold and silver can be found there. For hundreds of years, these minerals were mined up and down the British Isles, especially in England. However, the UK mining sector has declined massively over the past century.

UK fossil fuel mining

One of the most important resources in Britain’s mining history is coal. Coal helped fuel the industrial revolution and Britain’s empire in several ways, such as powering steam engines and fueling blast furnaces to turn iron ore into iron. Increasing demand meant that coal production in the UK grew rapidly, peaking at 292 million metric tons in 1913. Around that time, the number of employees in the coal mining industry was more than one million. However, due to several reasons such as rising costs, competition from abroad, and climate targets, coal production has been in decline ever since. In 2019, approximately two million metric tons of coal was produced in the UK. Currently there are just nine open-cast coal mining sites in the UK, and two underground coal sites.

The UK mining industry today

Today, mineral production in the UK comprises of mainly construction materials and industrial minerals. Large volumes of limestone and dolomite are still mined and quarried in the UK. The largest number of limestone and dolomite mining sites are located in the South West of England. This historic mining region was once a global leader in the metal mining industry in the UK, especially for tin. Although metal mining has followed a similar fate to the coal mining industry, the production of non-ferrous ores such as tungsten has seen an increase in recent years. There have been plans in recent years to reopen old tin sites for the extraction of materials for electronics. Deposits of lithium are also thought to be present in these mines, which has been gaining increasing importance as a metal used to power electric vehicles.

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Mining industry in the UK

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