Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Closing mines and quarries

Closing a quarry or closing down a mine

Mining and quarrying disturbs the land, plants and animals at the site. Closed mines can cause serious pollution from contaminated water in mine shafts, tailings dams, stockpiles, tips and mounds.

  • You are responsible for managing the impacts of your mine or quarry even after it has closed.
  • You should discuss plans for closing your mine or quarry with your environmental regulator as early as possible.
  • Your mine or quarry can play an important role in helping to conserve habitats and species. When you restore a site, you can provide new and sometimes rare habitats for plants and animals.

What you must do if you close all or part of your mine

You must give notice to your environmental regulator at least six months before you close all or part of your mine, including any seam or shaft, or make major changes to the water management regime. This is required by legislation on abandoning mines. You can be fined if you do not give notice.

Contact your environmental regulator

  • You must publish details about your mine closing in at least one local newspaper.
  • You must also comply with the conditions in your mineral planning consent and any other permit about closing your mine.

What you must do to comply with the Mining Waste Directive

The Mining Waste Directive (MWD) brings in new requirements for managing extractive waste at mines and quarries, including closure and after-closure procedures.

Closing extractive waste sites in Northern Ireland

What you must do when you close extractive waste sites and waste facilities will be explained in your planning permission.

Before you start closing your waste facility you must:

  • make sure you have met all conditions relating to managing extractive waste in your planning permission, and
  • have received an authorisation for closure notice from your local council.

The Council will inspect your site to check that you have met all the conditions in your planning permission. Your waste facility will only be officially closed when they issues you with a final closure notice.

You will be responsible for maintaining, monitoring, controlling, reporting and carrying out corrective measures at your site even after it is officially closed for as long as the Department Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs requires. For example, you may be required to minimise leachate from the facility and prevent it from contaminating surface water or groundwater.

Closing extractive waste facilities in Scotland

What you must do when you close extractive waste facilities will be explained in your planning permission.

Before you start closing your waste facility you must meet at least one of the following requirements. You must:

  • have met all relevant conditions in your planning permission, or
  • have permission from your planning authority to begin closure, or
  • have been instructed by your planning authority to close your waste facility.

When you ask your planning authority to finally close your waste facility it will inspect your site and assess your reports on closing the mine.

If you have closed your extractive waste facility correctly your planning authority will:

  • certify that the land affected by the waste facility has been rehabilitated
  • approve the closure of your facility in writing
  • release you from the obligations contained in your financial guarantee apart from any obligations relating to after-closure.

Your waste facility will only be officially closed when your planning authority issues you with a written notice of closure.

You will be responsible for maintaining, monitoring, controlling, reporting and carrying out corrective measures at your site even after it is officially closed for as long as your planning authority requires. For example, you may be required to minimise leachate from the facility and prevent it from contaminating surface water or groundwater.

To find out more about the MWD requirements, see our guidance on extractive waste.

Managing extractive waste in Northern Ireland and Scotland

Good practice for mines and quarries

Prepare a plan for restoring the land and speak to your local community about possible uses of the site once you have stopped mining or quarrying - for example, for sporting facilities, wetlands, grasslands, woodlands, heathlands or parklands.

Use topsoil and overburden to restore the land in stages throughout the life of your mine or quarry.

Consider whether your mine is likely to flood when your operations have ended and, if so, what you will do to prevent pollution.

Prepare a plan for managing your site after your mine or quarry has closed, to include monitoring, draining, treating, seeding, planting, fertilising, watering, or otherwise preparing the land and water for its end use.

Further information on closing mines and quarries

Environment Agency, SEPA and the Coal Authority: Abandoned mines and the water environment (Adobe PDF - 2.34MB)

Scottish Government: PAN 64 - Reclamation of surface mineral workings

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