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Selling a house with a mine shaft

Whether it’s coal mines or metal mines, the UK has thousands of abandoned mines. These could be base metal mines in Scotland, gold and copper mines in the Cambrian mountains of Wales, tin mines in Cornwall, or coal mines in the Midlands and the north.

With mining peaking in the 18th and 19th centuries, the estimated 2,000+ abandoned mines have left a legacy of unstable land.

So how much of a problem do mine shafts pose for you as a house seller?

To answer this question, we need to think about the buying process.

That’s because when you’re buying a property, a solicitor will carry out searches to find information about the property. These searches include a Local Authority search, water and property search and an Environmental search.

In addition, they’ll likely carry out a coal mining search (especially if the area is historically known for mining). The Coal Authority – a non-departmental public body of the government – say this will include details of:

  • mine entries within 20 metres of a property’s boundaries
  • the mine type (‘adit’ or a mine shaft)
  • gas emissions from coal mines
  • other coal mining hazards reported in the area
  • plans for future coal mining in the area

Mine types

As mentioned, the coal mining search will highlight the presence of either an adit mine entry (a horizontal entrance to an underground mine typically used for ventilation, water drainage and extracting minerals) or a mine shaft.

A mine shaft is a vertical entry point for access, usually about 2.5m wide that was used to transport minerals, supplies and workers.
Although the entries to mine shafts were capped and filled when they stopped being used, there are still instances of former mine shafts making their presence known when they collapse. If that happens to you, it will have an impact on your house sale.

Why do mine shafts collapse?

When a mine was permanently closed, it would have been capped with timber, such as railway sleepers. Over time, and covered in soil, these coverings disintegrate and all that is left over a 100m deep hole is a thin layer of soil. Eventually, due to ground level movement, the capping fails and reveals the vertical shaft, swallowing anything that is above, such as cars and people. You’ve probably seen images of sinkholes that seem to appear suddenly, but cause misery that lasts for years.

Can a mine shaft cause subsidence? 

Continuously pumping water to the surface when the mine was operational would have prevented the pit from flooding. However, when the pit was closed and the pumps were disconnected and removed, ground water was able to rise to the surface and cause the structure of the mine to degrade, or even collapse. This movement would then cause surface movement at ground level that, when it’s beneath a property or street would cause the buildings to move or crumble to the ground.

These are the very real risks that coal mines can pose, so to return to the original question of ‘how much of a problem do mine shafts pose for you as a house seller?’ you can see that mine shafts within close proximity of your house can be a real issue.

Can I sell my house when there’s a mine shaft nearby?

Although a coal mining report may note that a former mine is present but poses no danger, you’ll find that a lot of mortgage lenders simply will not consider a property that has a mine entry close to it. Furthermore, obtaining buildings insurance could also be problematic. These two points alone mean that many families will be unlikely to be able to buy your house.

And even though there is a record of where many coal mineshafts are located, it only applies to coal and brine mines. As such, there are other types of mine shafts that still remain undocumented, so it’s possible that a mortgage lender would ask for a series of reports and reviews of the property before confirming the buyer’s application for a mortgage. All this is going to hold up, or even prevent the sale of your house.

But all is not lost.

Although you may not be able to sell on the open market when your house is near a mine shaft, cash buyers and fast sale specialists would be able to make an offer for your property. They would take on the risk that is posed by the mineshaft and offer you a price that would be below market value, but would give you the cash to move onto your next place.

Any questions?

We hope this article has helped you to understand the issues that could be on the horizon when you’re selling a house that is near a mine shaft; even if it’s deemed to be safe.
If you have any questions about selling your property, we’ll be happy to have a chat. Contact us to find out what we can do for you.