Many of the mineshafts were dug hundreds of years ago – but they are continuing to cause a financial headache in the Black Country and Staffordshire, it has emerged.
Figures revealed today show that the Government has paid out more than £400,000 to home and landowners affected by mine shafts in the region in the past three years.
The subsidence above the deep shafts and chambers can cause cracks to appear in homes and public buildings, including Bilston Museum and Art Gallery, which was forced to close for safety work.
The fragile ground even contributed to the cancellation of a popular firework display held in Hickman Park in Bilston in 2010.
Today, it was revealed engineers had been called out more than 150 times to assess damage to properties across the West Midlands and Staffordshire over the past three years.
As well as the pay-outs to home and landowners, the call-outs cost The Coal Authority, which manages the effects of past coal mines and operations, £221,028.79 in the financial years between 2010 and 2013.
There were 45 incidents deemed as ‘surface hazards and enquires’ reported in 2010/11 which were designated as an ‘emergency response’.
In total, 38 incidents were reported in 2011/12 and 73 in 2012/13 across the Black Country, Birmingham, Staffordshire and Wyre Forest.
Residents and business owners in coal mining areas can make claims for subsidence damage to authority. Depending on where the land is, responsibility for dealing with the claim rests either with a mining company or authority.
Only owners of damaged property can claim, but tenants may also if their tenancy agreement makes them responsible for any repair and maintenance.
The Coal Authority paid out £129,204.93 in claims by people for subsidence in 2010/11. The highest total payouts were £123,641.20 across 29 claims in Walsall and £5,583.73 across 21 claims in Staffordshire. In total, £262,937.85 was paid out by the authority in 2011/12 with Birmingham, Sandwell and Walsall having the most claimants.
Coal Authority corporate manager, John Delaney, said: “The costs are associated with remediating the events for which we are called out and for the remediation of subsidence damage to property which we undertake.”