This browser is not fully supported by Historic England. Please update your browser to the latest version so that you get the best from our website.

Minerals and Mineral Extraction

This web page explains Historic England's role in providing advice on the management of historic remains relating to the minerals industry, and our role as a statutory consultee to local planning authorities and mineral planning authorities.

The scale and technical proficiency of the modern extractive industries means that they can have a profound effect on what we value most about the historic environment. 

About 0.35% of the area of the UK has planning permission for minerals development, including extraction sites, processing plants, minerals waste tips and landscaping schemes. Of this, around 0.12% is specifically associated with aggregates production.  

Ironbridge, Shropshire
Ironbridge, Shropshire © Jon Humble, Historic England

Current and future minerals extraction

Where there have been unavoidable impacts on archaeological remains and the historic environment resulting from extraction, the minerals industry has a long history of responsible environmental management and enabling and supporting mitigation measures in areas of extraction.

Archaeological survey and excavation on extraction sites has made a fundamental contribution towards revolutionising our understanding of the pre-industrial and industrial past.  More effective approaches to investigating historic sites and landscapes are continuously being developed.

Dialogue between heritage professionals, including Historic England, mineral planners and the minerals industry ensures that these are carried out, and that mitigation meets appropriate standards, as well as the test of 'reasonableness' required by the planning process. 

It is also important that developer-funded investigations have clearly defined objectives and are carried out within the context of national and regional historic environment research frameworks.

Historic England also plays a part in jointly developed strategic approaches to understanding the significance and distribution of historic sites and landscapes as the most effective means of identifying significant sites as early as possible in the planning process.  This leads to enhanced protection and the most cost-effective deployment of resources by the industry.

Boulby Mine (potash and rock salt) North Yorkshire
Boulby Mine (potash and rock salt) North Yorkshire © Jon Humble, Historic England

The legacy of past extraction

As the Government's adviser on the historic environment and as a statutory consultee to local planning authorities and mineral planning authorities, Historic England provides advice on the significance, designation and management of historic remains relating to the minerals industry.

Past mining and quarrying activity has created a widespread and, in some areas (especially the uplands), a fundamental social, economic and environmental legacy.  Its physical remains therefore form a significant part of today's historic environment.

Every generation has placed its own values on this legacy with attitudes changing radically over time and continuing to change.  What were initially perceived as derelict structures and land may eventually become highly valued as historic remains, particularly as the pool of surviving examples declines over time.

In recent years our understanding of historic mining and quarrying sites, landscapes and their associated infrastructure has developed rapidly, as part of the growing interest in the archaeology of industry.  The contribution of voluntary-sector special-interest groups has been an important factor in this development.

Frequently these groups have developed as a response to community associations with the mining and quarrying industries that have developed over many generations and become imbued with a strong sense of local identity and heritage.

Prosperous lead mine and smelt mill, Bewerley, North Yorkshire
Prosperous lead mine and smelt mill, Bewerley, North Yorkshire © Jon Humble, Historic England

Minerals and conservation

England has been a major producer and consumer of building and roofing stone for at least 2,000 years. The diversity of local stone sources, often coupled with local masons employing their own styles, has made a fundamental contribution to England's highly variable and locally distinctive built heritage over many centuries.

Using local building materials, particularly in rural areas, is recognised as the most effective way of achieving a visual harmony with the characteristics of the local geology and environment, and for maintaining local and regional distinctiveness.

Certain stones have traditionally been exported within England for prestigious building work (for example Portland and Burlington), and there is a need to maintain their production if the requisite materials and skills are to be sustained. 

These factors have led to an increase in the demand for building stone, and a growing recognition and appreciation of the value of England's stone resources.  

Was this page helpful?

Related publications

Next steps