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Coal Mine Exploration - what extra kit do i need?


Hey everyone,

I've done a fair bit of caving and lead & slate mine exploring. I've been reading about some coal mines in my local area and I have a few questions about additional safety considerations in a coal environment:

- gas/bad air - I assume it's good practice to take a gas detector with you, what are the recommendations and tips with buying and using one?
- lights - does everyone use atex lights or are well made non atex lights fine?
- access - I assume it's the same situation as caving and other mine exploring? Unless owned by the coal authority, in which case I guess it's just tresspass?
- anything else I should know?

Thanks in advance!



Well-known member
I have an idea that all coal mines come under the coal authority, end of. How much that extends the list of offences, I don't know, but I would be interested to find out.



Well-known member
Yes, Coal Authority are responsible for all abandoned coal mines and there is no legal access. They are also quite dangerous due to a variety of gasses. I would stick with metal mines. I am aware of groups on Youtube exploring coal mines ans then uploading videos, on one video Coal Authority actually posted a comment thanking the group for drawing attention to the fact the place was accessible and undertaking to get it sealed up ASAP. Coal mines really are dodgey ground.

Obviously working mines are different and it is sometimes possible for visits to be arranged.


Active member
Errr new brane might be a good idea 👍

Seriously you don’t want to fsuk about with abandoned coal measures- cave diving is safer!!!


Well-known member
Aidan's question was a perfectly reasonable and genuine one but I have to agree with the comments above; there are a great many dangers, some not obvious. Best to stick to natural caves and / or metal ore mines. I've been in a few abandoned coal mines myself (stupid boy!) and I reckon I'm definitely safer when cave diving.

If you're set on visiting a proper coal mine, you could do a lot worse than visit the national coal mining museum just outside Wakefield: https://www.ncm.org.uk/


Well-known member
Aside from bad air/gas, there's also the quite serious potential for roof collapse, especially in more dodgy ground - it depends where you are really, but horizontal seams equal subsidence, and if they've been closed a long time that likelihood increases. There are also several instances where a gas meter won't help until it's too late. I would also recommend avoiding them. I know of one local stone mine that is still open and has a coal seam present, but it's only a foot high at best, and the air is fine as it's small and well-ventilated. But the roof has fallen in at several points even within that small area as the rock above is flaggy and very fragile.


Well-known member
I absolutely love the coal history of our country but when it comes to going in them I tend to pass 9/10 times it’s another level , if your seriously considering it you need a lot more than normal mine exploring take a canary do serious amounts of reading colliery books this will save your life, they are very interesting but they are not done for many reasons .

A gas detector is only as good as it’s user this is where people go wrong turning it on at the wrong times and not understanding it .

The types of the mine itself “working wise” is a massive factor . It’s ventilation is everything when they shut they ruin this , you also can get very similar with iron . Anyway !!

Stay out mate stay alive .


Well-known member
I wouldn't say never go into an abandoned coal mine, but unless you've got a really, really good reason then just don't do it. As has been set out above, they're quite likely to have lethally bad air in them, have unstable roofing, and on top of that it's illegal to go in without the permission of the Coal Authority - it's not "just trespass" like it is with metal mines.

Ian P

Staff member


Well-known member
The National Coal Mining museum is an absolute treasure, this was us a couple of weeks ago, carrying out an inspection of the 130m furnace shaft


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Active member
The National Coal Mining museum is an absolute treasure, this was us a couple of weeks ago, carrying out an inspection of the 130m furnace shaft
Sad though, that they don't still do it the proper way, off the top of the cage.:(
Is there still a cage & winder on that shaft?


Well-known member
If you look at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_UK_caving_fatalities very sadly, listed is July 2008 where someone abseiled down a shaft at Craigmillar (disused coal mine) and was overcome by gas. Since they were overcome they weren't in a position to jumar back out again so unfortunately it's a fatality.

I keep away from coal myself but I believe that it isn't just good practice to have a gas detector it's absolutely essential and probably having more than one in the party.

Gas detectors are expensive. You can see an amazingly cheap Chinese multigas - of unknown manufacturer - on eBay/Amazon and it seems to be the same one in all different adverts with the various stock images, but that's like taking up skydiving and seeing there's a £50 parachute on eBay with no information about it.

Not only are they expensive to buy, but how do you know if it actually works? If you get false negative readings it may encourage more danger than if you didn't have one at all. It needs periodic calibration with calibration gas (e.g. 6 months depending on meter) and "bumping" on a regular basis, ideally before each use, to give it a sniff of methane, CO, H2S, lowered oxygen etc to check all sensors are working. Also knowledge on how to use and interpret the readings and link in head to how you feel especially if you don't have CO2 reading.

There are qualified confined spaces people on this thread (sadly not me) so I'll leave further discussion with them, just to say that buying, using and maintaining a meter isn't as cheap simple or convenient to as you might wish.

For coal.. got to repeat the stay out stay alive mantra


Thanks everyone for the info! I figured it was quite dangerous but not quite as bad as has been explained here. I think I'll take up Pitlamp's recommendation of the museum first and see if that temper's my curiosity

I think I'll look into getting some gas monitors anyway because it can't hurt - if anyone has any more advice please give it - I couldn't find any particularly useful publicly accessible info on coal exploration and it's dangers

Also, I don't think the Coal Authority own all abandoned coal mines, unless that's enshrined in statute (I think I know of a few which aren't owned by them) - there's too many relating to them to currently make me want to read them


Well-known member
It's also worth noting that the weather has a significant impact on air quality. Low pressure systems will tend to draw the gasses out of the workings, and vice versa.
With limited ventilation any gasses will linger in blind headings and hollows in the floor, until disturbed. Knee deep "damps" will be kicked up by the first person to smother those following


Well-known member
Also, I don't think the Coal Authority own all abandoned coal mines, unless that's enshrined in statute (I think I know of a few which aren't owned by them) - there's too many relating to them to currently make me want to read them
Think again - when coal was nationalised(by statute), it put all mines past and present into government hands. The Coal Authority does lease out working rights for smaller mines, and special provision had to be made to encompass the Forest of Dean Freeminer's rights, but as far as I'm aware, every abandoned coal mine is under CA control and it's in law that entering one without their permission is illegal.


I believe it is possible to visit the (working?) freemines in the Forest of Dean if you want to see how they extract the coal. I've not been myself, but have seen trips advertised through local caving clubs.

No idea how easy it is to organise though...