Sector 'B'

Mining and quarrying


This article is one of a series that considers the employment and economic value of various sectors of the Lancashire economy. Please see the sector profiles introduction page for details of where we derive the employment and gross value added results, plus how we identify various organisations in Lancashire as belonging to particular sectors. 

The mining and quarrying sector (standard industrial classifications 05.10 to 09.90) encompasses people working in traditional mining and quarrying activities, and those employed in the extraction of petroleum and natural gas. It also includes support activities for these various functions.  

The economic value of mining and quarrying

Gross Value Added (GVA) is generally regarded as the best measure of the sum of economic activity within an area. Local estimates of gross value added (GVA) are published by the Office for National Statistics that are split by various industrial sectors. The sectors include one covering mining and quarrying and the estimates of GVA for 2014 reveal that the sector accounted for £32 million which represented just 0.1% of the total GVA figure for the Lancashire-14 area (regional GVA NUTS2).

Please note that the GVA results do not allocate any of the economic value generated by the Morecambe Bay gas fields to Lancashire, or other parts of the North West. A very large proportion of the value generated by the Mining and Quarrying sector is only contained in the national figures. This is value classified as 'extra-regio' activity.

Employment trends

Figure 1 Mining and quarrying employees in the Lancashire-14 area, 1950 to 2014


Source: Business register employment survey and preceding employment estimates

Comprising the working of both energy producing materials (e.g. coal, oil and natural gas) and other minerals mainly for construction and the metallurgical and chemical industries, this is nowadays in direct employment terms a minor activity in Lancashire. In 2014, the industry employed only around 500 people. Lancaster district had a large proportion of the total with a selection of other districts each recording a small number of jobs.

Mining and quarrying historically played an important role in economic development, but nationally the sector experienced severe job losses for many decades. This was mainly due to the decline of the deep coal mining industry. Around sixty years ago deep coal mining was still a large industry in Lancashire, employing more than 7,000 people in 22 collieries. Lancashire's last major colliery – Hapton Valley Colliery near Burnley – closed in 1982, and afterwards very small-scale drift mining had been carried out at Green Clough Colliery, near Burnley and Hill Top Colliery, four kilometres north of Bacup. 

The business register and employment survey in 2014 allocated no employment in Lancashire to the mining of coal and lignite sub-classification.  The extraction of natural gas was the dominant employment activity in the county, whilst the other two industrial activity headings listed below had modest employment numbers.

0620 : Extraction of natural gas

0811 : Quarrying of ornamental and building stone, limestone, gypsum, chalk and slate

0812 : Operation of gravel and sand pits; mining of clays and kaolin

Alternative source of employment and other information 

The Department for Communities and Local Government publishes annual mineral extraction in Great Britain surveys. The surveys contain information at the 14-authority Lancashire level for type of mineral extracted by tonnage, and employment. 

Morecambe Bay gas fields and gas storage

The extraction of crude oil and gas are activities that have seen major expansion in the UK over the time-period covered in table 1. In 1974, nationally important gas fields were discovered some 40 kilometres west of the coast off Blackpool. The fields at one point were capable of supplying 15% of Britain's daily peak gas demand. As well as the rigs, the operation has an onshore support base at the port of Heysham.

The Oil and Gas Authority website contains details of UK oil and gas sites, field production data and downloads for Morecambe North (includes production from nearby fields) and Morecambe South gas fields. The data chart the declining production trend at the local fields over a number of years. From a cumulative total of 12,351 million cubic metres of gas from the two Morecambe fields in 2000, the yearly figure was down to 2,115 million cubic metres in 2013, and 450 million cubic metres of gas in 2018. On 30 July 2019, Centrica, the owner of the Morecambe Bay gas fields, announced its intention to exit oil and gas production by the end of 2020.

As part of the global maritime safety system, vessels of over 300 tons are required to broadcast their positions using an Automatic Identification System. Real time information regarding their movements is available at the ShipAIS website. The location of the Morecambe Bay Gas Fields, along with the positions of visiting service vessels, can be seen via this automatic identification system. The system identifies a selection of other gas fields that are in the vicinity of the Morecambe Bay fields. 

In July 2015, the Halite Energy Group received consent for the creation of up to 19 purpose-built caverns, which will store 900 million cubic metres of natural gas at their Preesall site in Wyre district. Halite Energy was subsequently bought by Cheshire Energy Ltd., part of NPL group, in November 2018. Media reports indicate that the NPL Group intend to proceed with the project. The gas storage plans were originally proposed by Halite Energy's predecessors, Canatxx. The vast majority of the development will be 1,000 feet underground, with a small number of above ground buildings to operate the facility. The £660 million project will create a large number of direct and indirect jobs at its peak, and is projected to have an eight-year construction phase.

Shale Gas   

The county council is the strategic planning authority for mineral and waste developments in the county and publishes details of planning applications associated with shale gas developments in the area.

Cuadrilla Resources is a company that is exploring the opportunity of extracting shale gas in the county. 

in June 2013, the government published the Bowland Shale Gas study that covered Lancashire, whilst the British Geological Survey website has comprehensive section on shale gas.

Economic links other sectors and environmental concerns 

Mining and quarrying activities are closely tied with the fortunes of the building and construction industry generally and with public infrastructure spending in Lancashire and beyond. Minerals are worked close to where they occur, and locally the sector supports the manufacturer of bricks at the Ravenhead factory in Skelmersdale. There is also the Claughton Brickworks near Lancaster , and the same company has an important cement works near Clitheroe.

The industry has to respond to environmental pressures because of disturbance to the countryside, the generation of waste arisings as well as noise and dust implications. The sector strives to maintain a good record in dealing with these problems and after-use restoration. Nationally, significant funds are spent on environmental protection matters by the mining and quarrying sector. The industry is committed to minimising the demand for primary aggregates and is investing heavily in facilities to increase the proportion of recycled and secondary aggregates e.g., from demolition sites or the secondary use of wastes from mining or industrial processes.  

Planning Policy in Lancashire

The Minerals and Waste Local Plan for Lancashire is prepared jointly by Lancashire County Council and the two unitary authorities of Blackburn with Darwen and Blackpool.     

New uses for former mining and quarrying sites

Mining and quarrying activities have left a legacy of abandoned workings, but a number of the old sites have been turned into havens for wildlife and recreation.

The website for the Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, North Manchester and Merseyside lists a number of reserves in Lancashire and the surrounding area that include former quarries. One of these is the 112-hectare Brockholes Quarry site next to junction 31 of the M6. The former gravel working is the hub of a network of wetland sites in the North West.

The Chisnall Hall former colliery site covers 55 hectares, close to Coppull Moor and adjacent to the M6. It is proposed to create an extensive native community woodland across the site with up to 65,000 trees 

The Parks and Green Spaces web page on the Visit South Ribble website mentions the Longton Brickcroft Nature Reserve. This is a 27-acre wetland nature reserve that was the former Bentley Brick works. Clay was excavated at the site to make bricks until early 1960s. 

Lancaster district has a number of former quarries and its proximity to the coast and the Lake District mean that there are examples of former mineral extraction sites finding new uses as caravan/leisure parks. Examples include the Pure Leisure Group's South Lakeland and Crook O'Lune sites in the authority.

The Coal Authority

The Coal Authority operates a number of mine water treatment schemes in England to remediate existing discharges and prevent new discharges from coal and mine workings. The list includes two sites in East Lancashire. Old Meadows is just to the north of Bacup and Deerplay is on the moors between Burnley and Bacup. The other Lancashire postal address sites are outside the 14-authority Lancashire area. 

The legacy of former mine workings in parts of the county was highlighted in 2015, when the  coal authority published development risk plans and specific risk plans for the Lancashire County Council area, and for the local authorities of Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Chorley, Hyndburn, Lancaster, Pendle, Ribble Valley, Rossendale, South Ribble and West Lancashire.  Of particular note are the two coal mining risk area plans for the county council area, and for Blackburn with Darwen. Together, they clearly emphasise the historic legacy of such activity across a large area of the county.    

The aggregates levy

The aggregates levy is a tax on the commercial exploitation in the UK of rock, sand and gravel, and is due from any business that quarries, dredges or imports these products. The levy commenced on 1 April 2002 and aims to bring about environmental benefits by encouraging the use of alternative materials such as recycled materials and certain waste products.

HM Revenue and Customs has a web page on GOV.UK that provides background information on the aggregates levy. 

Price Indices for aggregates

The Department for Business Innovation and Skills is responsible for the collection, analysis and publication of statistics on the construction sector. The results provide some useful context material, with the 'building materials' option giving access the latest results for the sale of sand and gravel figures for the 14-authority Lancashire area.

The British Geological Survey

The British Geological Survey provides advice on all areas of geosciences. The downloads section of the website allows users to search by area. Enter 'Lancashire' in the title to access a selection of reports and spreadsheets.

Page updated October 2015 (amended 6 & 8 December 2019 and 26 May 2021).