Subsidence holes & emergency claims

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Emergency hotline

Safety is Subsidence Advisory's highest priority. All mine subsidence safety issues, including suspected subsidence holes, should be immediately reported to our 24 Hour Emergency Hotline on 1800 248 083. We will coordinate a response to quickly address the issue and remove any danger.

What is mine subsidence?

Mine subsidence is the movement, settlement or sinking of the ground following underground coal mining. After coal is extracted from beneath the ground, the land above can sink and fill the hollow mine workings. Mine subsidence impacts vary depending on a range of factors including the mining method, the depth of mining and the geology of the land. Learn more about subsidence impacts from different types of mining.

Sometimes, subsidence from old underground mines at a shallow depth can result in a hole in the surface of the ground known as a ‘subsidence hole’.

What is a subsidence hole?

A subsidence hole is a hole in the surface of the ground that can appear because of mine subsidence from underground coal mines at a shallow depth.

Subsidence holes can be big or small but they can all be dangerous and must be treated with caution. The size of the hole beneath the ground may be much bigger than what can be seen on the surface. It is important that you do not approach the hole.

Small subsidence holes sometimes open up into large and dangerous open spaces beneath the ground. This means that the ground around the opening may be unstable and can easily collapse.

Subsidence holes can also contain hazardous gases from old underground mines that can cause serious harm if inhaled. These dangerous gases may not be visible and only be detectable with the right equipment, so it is important to keep a safe distance from the hole and immediately report it to Subsidence Advisory.

Subsidence holes are localised incidents, meaning they can occur on a property without any impacts to neighbouring areas.

What causes subsidence holes?

A subsidence hole may appear when parts of an old underground mine collapse. Subsidence holes typically occur in areas where old mine workings are very shallow. In NSW, this is generally limited to the Newcastle, Hunter, Lithgow and Gunnedah regions. 

Historically, underground mines in NSW extracted coal through bord and pillar mining methods. Bord and pillar mine workings were often at a shallow depth and left supporting structures after mining. Coal extraction may have occurred over 150 years ago. Occasionally, parts of the old mine workings collapse resulting in subsidence. A range of factors, including water inundation, may have caused the workings to deteriorate over a long time.

Most active underground coal mines that operate across NSW today use modern mining methods to extract deep coal, such as longwall mining. Longwall mining at depth does not create a risk of holes.

How to identify a subsidence hole

Subsidence holes vary in size and appearance and can look similar to other types of holes in the ground. Subsidence holes can range from fist size to much larger and may appear as an open hole or a depression in the ground.

Some subsidence holes may look small and insignificant on the surface but open up into a much larger cavity beneath the ground. This means that the ground surrounding subsidence holes can be unstable and may easily collapse so it is important to keep a safe distance.

If you see something that you suspect might be a subsidence hole, you should keep away and immediately report it to Subsidence Advisory NSW’s 24 Hour Emergency Hotline on 1800 248 083 or Emergency Services on 000.

What to do if you spot a subsidence hole

If you suspect that you have found a subsidence hole, you should keep away and immediately report it to Subsidence Advisory’s 24 Hour Emergency Hotline on 1800 248 083. You can also report holes to Emergency Services on 000.

Subsidence Advisory will investigate the suspected subsidence hole and make sure the area is safe. This may involve temporarily restricting access to the area while the hole is being investigated or fixed. There are different ways to fix subsidence holes depending on their size and location but it often involves filling the hole with a mix of concrete or rocks and soil.

Emergency claims

If you are concerned about the safety or security of your property as a result of mine subsidence, you should report it to Subsidence Advisory NSW’s 24 Hour Emergency Hotline on 1800 248 083.

Safety and security concerns may include, but are not limited to, the closing and locking of doors and windows or the locking of pool gates. Subsidence Advisory NSW treats these concerns as emergency claims and will investigate them immediately.

Subsidence Advisory NSW offers temporary repairs to ensure buildings and structures that are impacted by mine subsidence stay safe and serviceable while the claim is assessed.

Non-emergency claims for compensation for subsidence damage to homes or structures should be lodged online.

Frequently asked questions
1. Should I be concerned about safety?

There are thousands of people living in areas where there are underground mines across NSW. Just because there has been underground mining in an area, does not mean it will be impacted by subsidence. In many areas, old mine workings are considered stable and are unlikely to cause subsidence. When subsidence does occur, it generally happens unnoticeably as the mine workings deteriorate over time.

To ensure community safety, it is important that people living in these areas are aware of the potential for subsidence to occur and to immediately report any subsidence safety issues, such as subsidence holes, to Subsidence Advisory’s 24 Hour Emergency Hotline – 1800 248 083 - for investigation.

In addition to its 24-Hour Emergency Hotline, Subsidence Advisory regulates development in mine subsidence districts to help protect homes and other structures from potential subsidence damage and keep people safe. Subsidence Advisory places conditions on building and development activities in mine subsidence districts to help prevent damage and ensure structures remain safe should subsidence occur.

2. Where can subsidence holes occur?

Not all areas with potential for mine subsidence to occur have a risk of subsidence holes. Subsidence holes can only occur in areas where there are underground coal mines close at a shallow depth. In NSW, subsidence holes generally only occur in parts of the Newcastle, Hunter, Lithgow and Gunnedah regions where there are historical mine workings.

Subsidence Advisory has previously responded to subsidence holes on private properties, roads and footpaths, schools, parks, recreational areas, and bushland.

It’s important to note that most active underground coal mines that operate in NSW today use modern mining methods, such as longwall mining, to extract coal at considerable depths. This type of mining does not create a risk of subsidence holes.

3. What does Subsidence Advisory do after a subsidence hole is reported?

Not all holes reported to Subsidence Advisory are subsidence related. Following a subsidence hole report, Subsidence Advisory completes an initial assessment to determine if there is underground coal mining in the area.

If the hole is near underground coal mining, Subsidence Advisory will categorise the hole as either ‘High’ or ‘Low’ risk depending on a number of factors including the size and location of the hole and how the area is used. For example, a hole in a public road would be classified as ‘High’ risk.

Subsidence Advisory initiates an immediate response to all ‘High’ risk reports. 

4. Is there any cost for Subsidence Advisory to fix a subsidence hole on a private property?

No. All costs associated with investigating and remediating a subsidence hole are met by Subsidence Advisory. Subsidence Advisory’s operations are funded through an annual levy on the coal mining industry of NSW.

5. What happens if a reported hole hasn’t been caused by subsidence?

Subsidence Advisory can only remediate holes that have been caused by mine subsidence. There are a range of other causes of holes appearing in the ground including nearby trees or leaking water pipes.

Prior to undertaking emergency remediation works, Subsidence Advisory assesses whether the hole has been caused by subsidence. This includes a review of underground coal mining records to determine if there has been mining nearby. This is completed using Subsidence Advisory’s comprehensive record of underground mine workings across NSW.

If the hole is in an area with underground coal mining, Subsidence Advisory assesses whether the type and depth of the mining can cause subsidence holes. For example, longwall mining at depth does not create risk of subsidence holes. Subsidence Advisory also undertakes on site assessments to determine the cause of holes. If a hole is found not to have been caused by mine subsidence, Subsidence Advisory will provide the reporter or property owner with an explanation of the findings.

6. What can I do if my property has been damaged by mine subsidence?

Subsidence Advisory manages compensation claims for subsidence damage to homes and other surface improvements. If you suspect your home or building has been damaged by subsidence, you can lodge a claim for compensation through Subsidence Advisory. Learn more about Subsidence Advisory’s claim service.

7. What about impacts from other types of mining?

Subsidence Advisory only manages subsidence impacts from underground coal mining in NSW. Matters related to other types of mining must be directed to the relevant authority. You can find out more by contacting the NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Division of Resources and Geoscience.

8. Who is Maurie Mole

Maurie Mole is Subsidence Advisory’s mascot. Maurie has been educating communities living in mine subsidence areas about the dangers of subsidence holes for over 30 years with his important safety message ‘if you see a hole, don’t think you’re a mole – walk in the opposite direction and report your detection’.

9. How do I find out more?

General enquiries should be directed to Subsidence Advisory at [email protected] or on (02) 4908 4300 between 8:30am and 4:30pm, Monday to Friday.

Please note Subsidence Advisory’s offices will be closed from Monday, 24 December 2018 to Friday, 4 January 2019. We will respond to all enquires received during this time when our offices reopen from Monday, 7 January 2019. The 24-Hour Emergency Hotline will remain open for the public to report mine subsidence safety issues, including subsidence holes.