Mineral Rights in the UK

Updated April 17, 2017

Minerals are composed of matter other than plant or animal, formed through geological processes. The rights to these minerals in the UK depend on the mineral. Oil, gas, gold and silver are owned by the Crown and governed through parliament. Other minerals such as copper and zinc, are privately owned and authorisation must be granted from the local planning authority for extraction.

Gold Mine

To mine for gold and silver in the UK permission must be granted by the Crown Estate. Up until 1668 the Crown also owned the rights to copper, iron, lead and tin. The right to mine for gold and silver in some areas of Scotland has been transferred from the Crown by ancient charter but these are the only exceptions. Gold and silver mines are known as Mines Royal and the Crown Estate has "five production leases including one working mine in Northern Ireland," according to the Crown Estate website.

Continental Shelf

Under the Petroleum (Production) Act of 1934, all rights to oil and gas found within the land area of the UK is owned by the Crown. Mineral rights in Britain's surrounding seas also belong to the Crown as long as it falls within the perimeters of the UK Continental Shelf. The UK Continental Shelf mainly covers the North Sea, which also borders The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany and Norway. The border lines were mapped out in an agreement between the five countries. Licenses to extract oil and gas from the UK Continental Shelf are granted by the Government's Department of Energy and Climate Change.

Coal Rights

The Coal Authority owns the rights to coal in the UK. The Coal Authority is a public body set up by UK Parliament in 1994 and is sponsored by the government's Department for Energy and Climate Change. "The Coal Authority owns, on behalf of the country, the vast majority of the coal in Great Britain, as well as former coal mines," according to The Coal Authority website.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland the majority of mineral rights are owned and managed by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment under the 1969 Mineral Development Act. The exceptions are gold and silver and substances such as sand and gravel.

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About the Author

Louise Scrivens is a journalist and editor who started out on newspapers in 1998 and has since traveled around the world working as a writer and editor for BBC News in London, Australian Associated Press and Bloomberg News in New York. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature from Salford University, Manchester.