Case Study: The Coal Authority (GIS)


The Coal Authority (TCA) works to resolve the impacts of mining. To fulfil this remit the Coal Authority uses a significant amount of spatial data (more than 120 layers) and has a sophisticated set of integrated enterprise strength geospatial tools that allow them to manage their spatial data assets and undertake their day to day tasks. These tools include:

+ Public-facing tools that capture and process boundary data as part of the mining reports service

+ An internal corporate GIS browser that shares spatial data and performs specific tasks across the entire organisation

+ Desktop tools for complex data modelling.

Over time, some of these components required refreshing either due to performance issues and/or the vendor deprecating some of the technology, most notably the web mapping component.




Faced with the deprecation of the core technology that underpinned the internal corporate GIS browser SCISYS worked with the Coal Authority to look at the options. Following initial research this came down to two:

+ A replacement JavaScript COTS component

+ An open source equivalent


SCISYS undertook research into both products and produced a recommendations paper for the Coal Authority. This concluded that the open source approach should be adopted as:

+ It had already proven to be more performant (this was shown via the Coal Authorities public interface where the COTS component had previously been replaced)

+ It could easily replicate the look and feel of the web mapping component

+ It could interface with COTS server component through a REST API thus this component could be kept

+ It is in line with Government policy


As an Open Source project the Coal Authority could better influence the product roadmap / resolve issues and contribute back to the project (e.g. SCISYS contributed back to the GeoTools project)

Following on from the study SCISYS worked in partnership with the Authority to implement the recommendation.



The Authority is now running a hybrid architecture that retains the best elements of the COTS toolset for performing complex analytical tasks and supplements them with lighter weight more performant and flexible tools (OpenLayers and Geoserver) for capturing/presenting data both publically and internally. As a result of this work the Coal Authority now has a solution that:

+ Is open by design and can be extended to handle increased demand with no additional licence costs

+ Is more performant thus providing a better user experience

+ Was cheaper and easier to develop

+ Is still supported

+ Works alongside their existing investment and thus did not require a whole-scale replacement of all components


" Commenting on the delivery Steve Pennell, former Director of Mining Information and Services said “Inferis is a business-critical system for the Coal Authority, bringing together as it does all the major operational business and an enterprise GIS including the national coal mining database (designated by the Nation Archive as a government dataset of national importance). All this has been delivered. This excellent achievement and the quality of the product is testament to the professionalism, dedication and skill demonstrated by the whole team, and for which the Authority is very grateful and appreciative.” "

About SCISYS Group:

Employing around 670 staff, SCISYS Group is a leading developer of information and communications technology services, e-business, web and mobile applications, editorial newsroom solutions and advanced technology solutions. The Company operates in a broad spectrum of market sectors, including Media & Broadcast, Space, Government and Defence and Commercial sectors. SCISYS clients are predominantly blue-chip and public-sector organisations. Customers include the Environment Agency, the Ministry of Defence, Airbus Defence & Space, Thales Alenia Space, Arqiva, Vodafone, the European Space Agency, Eumetsat, the BBC, Radio France, RTL, RNLI, Pets at Home, Siemens and the National Trust. The Company's registered office is in Dublin, with UK offices in Chippenham, Bristol, Leicester and Reading and German offices in Bochum, Dortmund, Darmstadt and Munich.