Permits and licences potentially required for coal extraction

We provide several permissions related to the management of mining waste and coal extraction.

Whilst not providing permission to extract the coal itself, we still have an active regulatory role to play in helping control some of the environmental impacts of coal mining.

We determine permit applications for discharges to surface water, groundwater and the management of extractive waste as required by UK law under the Environmental Permitting Regulations, which implemented the Water Framework Directive and the Mining Waste Directive.

Mining Waste

A mining waste permit for the management of extractive waste arising from coal extraction may be required. However, no permit is required if a site stopped producing waste before 1 May 2006 or if closure was completed by 31 December 2010.

Extractive waste may be:

  • waste solids or slurries that remain after the treatment of minerals by a number of techniques
  • rock and overburden that extractive operations move during the process of assessing an ore or mineral body, including during the pre-production stage
  • soil, for example the upper layer of the ground, including sub-soil.

Apply for a Mining Waste permit

Apply for a mining waste permit

Read additional guidance on our page Guidance to help you comply with an Environmental Permit

Water Discharge

Permits for management of water discharges. A water discharge can be integral to a mining waste operation or it can be a standalone discharge if it is from an extraction site and not part of the mining waste operation.

Abandoned mines are a significant source of hazardous pollutants, notably metals such as iron, lead, zinc, cadmium and copper, and anions such as chloride and sulphate.

Abandoned mines need to be tackled for us to comply with our Water Framework Directive obligations and objectives. The owners or operators of mines which were abandoned on or before 31 December 1999 cannot be held liable for permitting discharges from mines after they have closed and where there is no person causing a discharge.

As there is no liable person, these discharges are not subject to regulation through the Environmental Permitting Regulations. Improvements in the quality of these mine waters cannot therefore be made by regulatory means alone.

For these mines, a significant programme of mine water treatment is conducted by the Coal Authority in partnership with the Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales and other organisations.

Apply for a Water Discharge permit

Apply for a water discharge permit

Water Abstraction

Water abstraction licences for dewatering of mines, quarries and engineering works - a report detailing the results of the pumping test and an assessment of the effect the proposed abstraction would have on the local environment is required.

Please read the Environment Agency’s ‘Hydrogeological Impact Appraisal for groundwater abstractions’ for further help


read the Environment Agency’s ‘Hydrogeological Impact Appraisal for dewatering abstractions’ if proposing to dewater a sump or excavation.

Abstraction licences may also be required for ongoing dewatering activities after mines have been abandoned.  Passive dewatering not deemed low risk and pumped dewatering are licensable activities both during the operation of, and after the abandonment, of mines.

Temporary dewatering activities, however, may be exempt within The Water Abstraction and impounding (Exemptions) Regulations 2017.

Apply for an abstraction license

Read more about water abstraction and apply for a permit.

Permits for restoration of coal extraction facilities

Waste is often used in restoration of coal extraction facilities. Coal extraction facilities can be restored through the following recovery based regulatory routes:

  • mobile plant permits and deployments
  • site based permits -deposit for recovery

Alternatively, if it can be demonstrated that material used in restoration has not been discarded and is therefore not considered waste, reuse of excavated materials is permitted through the Definition of Waste: Code of Practice.

Read about the Definition of waste code of practice on the Claire website

The Code of Practice provides a clear, consistent and efficient process which enables the reuse of excavated materials on-site or their movement between sites and enables:

  • the direct transfer and reuse of clean naturally occurring soil materials between sites
  • the conditions to support the establishment/operation of fixed soil treatment facilities
  • the reuse of both contaminated/uncontaminated materials on their site of origin and between sites within defined Cluster projects.

Mobile plant permits and deployments

NRW offer two standard rules mobile plant permits that can be used for the restoration of coal extraction facilities; these are:

  • SR2010 No4- Mobile plant for landspreading- land treatment resulting in benefit to agriculture or ecological improvement
  • SR2010No5- Mobile plant for the reclamation, restoration or improvement of land.

Standard rule permits can be found at our page for applying for waste standard rules permits.

If an operator cannot comply with the criteria for the standard rules or they are too restrictive then

Apply for a bespoke mobile plant permit

When operating under a mobile plant permit an application for a mobile plant deployment will also need to be made.

Site based permits - deposit for recovery

Alternatively, site-based permits for the deposit of waste for recovery can be used. This can either be in the form of a stand rules permit (SR2017 No1- Use of waste in a deposit for recovery operation - Construction, reclamation, restoration or improvement of land other than by mobile plant), or a bespoke permit.

To use this regulatory option an operator must be able to demonstrate their activities are recovery.

See Waste recovery plans and permits  on GOV.UK for further information.

We will continue to provide pre-application advice to developers on the potential environmental and landscape impacts at a site in accordance with our charging scheme.

For any site granted a permit our monitoring and compliance role at each site ensures that the environmental risks are properly managed through audits, site inspections, spot check monitoring and reviewing operator records and procedures.

Protected species licences

We also consider permits, licences and consents to determine the potential impact of a proposal on European Protected Sites and Species.

Find further information on our species licensing page.

Information on identifying whether there are protected habitats or species that need consideration can be found by using our screening tool in our working in protected areas page.


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