Disused coal mines could begin second life as underground farms

Abandoned coal mines could be repurposed and brought back to life as huge underground farms, according to plans unveiled by academics.

The “deep farms” created in some of the 150,000 abandoned shafts in the UK could produce up to ten harvests a year.

Seen as optimal environments to grow food such as vegetables and herbs, mine shafts and tunnels would use technology developed for above-ground “vertical farms” featuring LED lighting designed for specific crops that are grown in water-based hydroponic solutions rather than soil.

Deep farms would have advantages that current land-based farms lack, including a controlled climate uninfluenced by weather and no need for expensive farming equipment.

The initiative, proposed by the World Society of Sustainable Energy Technology, is seen as a way of providing large-scale crop production for a growing global population.

Potential crops grown in the deep farms would include lettuces and leafy greens like spinach and kale, herbs like basil and mint, strawberries, mushrooms, carrots, eggplants, and a wide variety of others.

Deep farming would incorporate many existing technologies—hydroponic planters with nutrient-rich water, aeroponic plants growing with a mist, and LED units to create photosynthesis. And if they can use groundwater and be located close to the communities they serve, deep farms could reduce the CO2 emissions of farming and cut down on transportation costs at the same time.

The Land Trust, who owns and manages many former colliery sites that have been converted into public spaces, welcomed the idea. Speaking to the BBC, chief executive of The Land Trust, said: “There are some obvious challenges, not least that many shafts have been capped or have been built on, but there are lots of coalfields where there is no community around them, where this is clearly something worth looking at.”

The Coal Authority, which presides over all disused and working mines in the UK, told the BBC it was “open to considering new ideas” but warned that reopening the mines could present problems such as rising water levels, underground gases and tunnel collapses.

Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief @rosamedea

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