4.3 The UK's coal reserves
Production of large quantities of coal in the UK during the 19th and 20th centuries led to the progressive depletion of reserves. In 2005 underground mining was limited to the Carboniferous coalfields of Yorkshire and the East Midlands, with only one underground mine operating in South Wales. However, surface mining sites still work coal in most of the coalfields (Figure 19).
As Section 5 will show, what is considered to be a reserve (i.e. the amount that is thought to be recoverable in the future under existing economic conditions — Sheldon, 2005) changes with time. The coalfields of northern England and the Midland Valley of Scotland that extend eastwards under the North Sea are examples of this. Although coal has been worked there in the past, it is not currently recoverable at a profit.
In 2004, the UK's coal reserves were estimated to be 1.0 × 10 9 t of anthracite and bituminous coal, and 0.5 × 109 t of sub-bituminous coal and lignite. Together, these two figures represent 0.2% of total global coal reserves.