Northern Economic Geology

The geology of North provides some of the most spectacular sights and wonders in the country. From the majestic Whin Sill complex to the stately elegance of the Durham Peninsular the geology of the region is intimately tied up with its people, history, religion and industry. These pages will give an overview of the economic geology of the North and highlight the contribution Institute members are still making to unravelling the natural history of the region and engineering its future.

The North Pennine Orefield

The North Pennine Orefield was formed during the late carboniferous through a combination of warm brines passing through the carboniferous sedimentary strata and their interaction with the Weardale Granite and the Whin Sill. The geological model for the formation of the orefield is still being debated due to the complex interaction between sedimentary and igneous ore forming processes.

The Coal Measures

The Coal Measures are a series of Carboniferous age sedimentary strata that provided the region with its main source of industrial wealth during the 18th-19th Centuries. The main Northern coalfield is the Great Northern Coalfield, with the smaller Ingleton, Cumberland and Tweed fields present elsewhere in the region.

Offshore Geology

The petroleum and offshore geotechnical geology of the Central North Sea is dominated by sedimentary sequences (dating from the Devonian onwards) overlying earlier crystalline basement rocks dating from the Caledonian Orogeny. These sedimentary deposits contain some coal beds at depth and also form numerous oil reservoirs. The later surface sedimentary deposits are the foundation rocks for the geotechnical foundations of offshore wind farms.

Polyhalite Deposits

The polyhalite deposits of North Yorkshire are hosted within the Permian era Zechstein basin. Much of the recent exploration work has been carried out by two members of the Institute, Rick Smith and Peter Wood.

Geology of Holy Island

Holy Island is composed of early Carboniferous era sediments and a later Carboniferous intrusive. The Carboniferous limestones contain abundant crinoid fossils giving rise to the legend of ‘St Cuddy’s Beads’.

Geology of the Durham Peninsular

The Durham Peninsular offers an opportunity to observe and eroded section though the Coal Measures and is a popular fieldtrip destination for University and School students to practice basic geological skills. The area has several coal seams and overgrown mine entrances.


The Institute regularly organises fieldtrips to sites of geological interest in the North. Our field guides and trip write ups can be found here.

Comments are closed