The British Caving Association’s Local Cave and Mine Leader Awards


In the summer of 2020, the BCA awards were renamed. The original ‘Level 1’ or ‘Level 2’ awards have now been replaced with the following titles :
Level 1 becomes – Cave Leader (or Mine Leader / Cave & Mine Leader)
Level 2 becomes – Vertical Cave Leader (or Vertical Mine Leader / Vertical Cave & Mine Leader)

The LCMLA system can appear to be a little complex for newcomers but it has many similarities with awards like the SPA and the ML. To initially enter the scheme you are required to pay a one off registration fee to BCA Training. This is not BCA membership, which can be bought into if desired, but is not a requirement of the awards at this time. A copy of the most recent LCMLA syllabus documents can be downloaded from the BCA website or the ‘JustGo’ BCA Qualification Management System.
You can register for the LCMLA anytime, but you must have registered before completing your Local Cave / Mine Leader training course or it might not be counted. When you register online, you’ll give details like address and contact email/number. If you ever change address, email or phone, use the Profile menu on the website to update your details.

You need to keep a logbook to record all your group and personal underground trips. This can be on paper or electronically (there are no plans for making a BCA online logbook at this time). Template logbook pages for printing out or digital spreadsheet recording are available on the website. Make sure to use the ‘comments’ section of the logbook to give useful details about the trip – weather, group type, evidence towards a Quality Trip* log etc…

TOP TIP – You may choose to record trips in a traditional paper logbook, but it is best to create a digital spreadsheet version as early in your scheme progress as possible. This is easier to send to Trainer/Assessors in the future when you book assessments or update workshops.

TOP TIP – A specific number of Quality Trips are required to progress to assessments, log details of these trips as comprehensively as possible to make it easier to present your list later on when you go for assessment.

Award Scheme Structure

Venue Specific

In the LCMLA scheme, there are a number of award options and pathways to suit each candidate. The scheme is designed to be ‘Local’ and have a number of adaptations that better reflect the differing regional nature of the underground areas of the UK. An award is initially gained for a single region but increasing the number of areas it covers is very simple and does not require re-assessment. The main difference with the LCMLA awards over things like the RCI (SPA) is that in order to use a certain cave or mine, it must be listed specifically on your award certificate. The awards do not cover you for just any cave or mine, they have to be individually known and requested at assessment. This sounds onerous for the candidate but is an essential and simple element of the assessment process. Each underground venue has its own access details, flood risk, history, hazards and ropework. To lead in a cave or mine, you should know that venue well enough to be safe and fluid. As you gain the requirement for different venues, perhaps in different areas of the UK, you can add them as and when you want with a local Assessor.

Cave and/or Mine

The LCMLA awards can be gained in Cave, Mine or both. Each environment has its own specific hazards and management issues. An award in cave can be converted to cave and mine at any point in the candidate’s progress through the scheme, or vice versa.  Some leaders may never need to visit mines, only caves; hence there is no compulsion to complete both disciplines. Upgrading a certificate to include the other discipline does not require the candidate to re-assess on the entire scheme. You will need to have attended a training course in that type of site (e.g. 1 day additional mine training for those already cave trained) and then complete a single day transfer assessment (Module 6). This ‘conversion’ will allow the candidate to add mine or cave venues to their award certificate in future. This can be done by both CL/ML holders (old L1) or Vertical CL/ML holders (old L2).

Cave & Mine Leader & Vertical Cave & Mine Leader Awards

The Cave & Mine Leader (CML) awards are the initial qualification and the foundation to the whole scheme. Formerly this qualification was known as the Level 1 Award. The CML awards set the candidate up with a sound knowledge of the underground environment and safe party management. The CML can lead in horizontal systems with short scrambles and easy traverses where a harness is not required. A candidate must hold a full Cave Leader, Mine Leader or Cave & Mine Leader award before moving on to the Vertical Leader.

The Vertical Cave & Mine Leader (VCML) award is a technical award, extending the remit of the CML to include climbing, abseiling, traversing and lower-offs for pitches up to 18m (60ft). The award can also include a module on tyrolean traverses and personal SRT skills. The VCML makes an excellent companion to awards like the climber’s RCI or MCI, teaching new tricks with overlapping skills for all vertical environments. You can complete vertical training as soon as you have done your CML training but cannot assess until you complete your CML assessment.

Gaining Awards

Each award is attained via a pathway of Training Course –> Core Skills Assessment –> Group Assessment.

For specifics for each award level, click through to the relevant pages.

*Quality Trips should incorporate at least 4 of the following:

  • Exploration of a new route or cave (new to the candidate that is)
  • Incorporates at least 4 to 5 hours of underground exploration.
  • An experience that develops an individual’s caving knowledge, skills and awareness.
  • Incorporates caving skills above the level of the candidate’s qualification.
  • Of the candidates own making i.e. the candidate is to lead the trip, or it is one done with peers and not led by an external source.
  • For CML, involves the application of vertical skills, digging or exploration.
  • Exploration of caves with a streamway that responds to rainfall

Training & Technical Services