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Mine Exploration


(Published January 2022, replacing March 2016)


This page looks to give the facts a person would need to know to run Mine Exploration for a group of young people, or to do it for themselves if they are a young person.

What is Mine Exploration?

Mine Exploration is the exploration of man-made underground passages previously excavated in search of resources such as stones, minerals or metals.

What is a Mine Exploration Permit?

The adventurous activity permit scheme is designed to ensure that only people with the relevant skills and experience lead adventurous activities for the young people. Therefore all activities classed as adventurous can only be lead by someone holding the appropriate permit. Additionally young people (under 18) can take part in adventurous activities for themselves with personal activity permits.

A Mine Exploration permit is required for all activities going into a man-made underground environment, except where that underground environment is an official show mine.

Levels of Permit

There are four levels of permit available for Mine Exploration. These are:

  • Mine Exploration - No Vertical Pitches
  • Mine Exploration with Ladders
  • Mine Exploration with SRT for the leader
  • Mine Exploration with SRT for the group

Additionally, each of these permits can be further restricted (such as through specific mines etc) to end up with an individual permit to the level of the competence and requirements of any person.

Types of Permit

There are two types of permit available for mine exploration. These are:

  • Personal – Allows a young person (under 18) to take part in mine exploration with others with a personal mine exploration permit.
  • Leadership – Allows the permit holder to lead mine exploration for a single group.

Permit Limitations

Personal – If you hold a personal mine exploration permit, you can go into mines with others who hold a personal mine exploration permit. It doesn't allow you to go into mines with anyone not holding a mine exploration permit.

Leadership - A permit to lead mine exploration will allow you to take a group of no more than eight people and no fewer than four people (including yourself) into a mine. You must remain in the mine system with the group at all times, and remain responsible for everyone within that group.

If you have a permit with SRT for the group, then you can use SRT with your group up to the level of any restrictions on the permit. If not, this technique can't be used. The same applies to permits that include the use of ladders for vertical pitches. If you have a permit with SRT for the leader, you can use SRT yourself, but not for anyone else in the group.

Use of ropes

Use of ropes when travelling, for example abseiling, two members of the party should be confident dealing with emergency situations. One of these people will be the permit holder but a second person should be able to respond if any emergency occurs whilst the permit holder is themselves travelling on the rope. This second person could be a young person or an adult.

Risk Assessment

While maximum group sizes and minimum first aid requirements are defined for mine exploration, this does not mean they are always the most appropriate for each mine trip you run. Depending on your risk assessment for each individual trip it may be decided to lower the maximum party size or require more specific first aid knowledge for certain trips.  This risk assessment should also look at what would happen if the permit holder were to be injured and whether there is the need to have another competent member in each group to deal with this situation.


When ascending or descending vertical pitches, a suitable sit harness and suitable cowstails with appropriate karabiners should be used rather than waist belts. Direct belay systems should be used rather than indirect belays that are only appropriate for emergency situations.

All equipment must be designed for its intended purpose and used, managed and maintained in line with manufacturer’s guidance.

Further Definitions

Vertical Pitches refers to places that would require the use of Ladders or SRT for ascent or descent with a group.

SRT refers to Single Rope Techniques. This is a method to allow you to both descend and ascend vertical pitches within mines using a single rope and specialist pieces of equipment as found in a personal SRT kit.

Radon – for more information and guidance check out the British Caving Association guidance.

Rules relating to mine exploration

Rule 9.7 Adventurous Activities Permit Scheme

Rule 9.8 Adult groups undertaking activities

Rule 9.12.2 Caving and mine exploration

General activity rules

Rule 9.1 All Activities 

Rule 9.6 Use of External Centres and Instructors