local cave & mine leader

The Local Cave &/or Mine Leader award (formerly Level 1) is the foundation certificate for leading in the underground environment. All other awards and modules gained build on the knowledge and skill base which is at the core of the LCML award. It is where every candidate must start their journey.


LCMLA – Local Cave & Mine Leader Awards
LCL – Local Cave Leader
LML – Local Mine Leader
LCML – Local Cave & Mine Leader
VCL – Vertical Cave Leader
VML – Vertical Mine Leader
VCML – Vertical Cave & Mine Leader

Why undertake the LCML Awards?

The LCML awards are the only cave and mine awards of their type in the UK. The outdoor industry, insurers and the Adventure Activities Licensing Scheme all fully recognise the awards as an appropriate way to demonstrate competence in the underground environment. Although some centres sometimes use ‘site-specific’ certifications, there is no better way of demonstrating to your customers and insurers that you and your staff are appropriately experienced to be leading others in that environment. The LCMLA awards can be transferred around the UK and be expanded to suit each candidate as they progress through their career. The award can cover natural caves and abandoned mines, or you can choose to just complete the award for either cave or mine. Any cave can theoretically be added to a Local Cave Leader award, but there are only certain mines in the UK that can be used by Local Mine Leader award holders.

Abandoned Mines

Abandoned mines used by groups must be inspected for use in accordance with UK mining regulations. They are considered work environments so certain aspects of the Mines Regulations 2014 apply. Another area that applies is the requirement to be appropriately trained to operate in a mine environment. The Mine Leader award is the only nationally recognised competency benchmark short of designing your own ‘in-house’ scheme and having it approved by AALS and your insurer. Being suitably qualified to be in a mine is a requirement of UK law, whether professionally leading or as a volunteer (e.g. Scouts).

The LCML award has many transferable skills to other outdoor disciplines. Spotting, simple knot-only rigging, geology and hydrology are just some of the elements that can be taken from this scheme and add to your practice in other outdoor disciplines. Finally, if you needed any more persuading, there are significantly fewer qualified cave and mine leaders in the UK than RCI or ML award holders. There is less competition for the work and areas like North Wales are crying out for more qualified leaders.

How to gain a LCML award

To achieve an LCML award a candidate must do the following:

  1. Register for the award scheme with the BCA
  2. Undertake an approved training course in Cave, Mine or both disciplines
  3. Gain experience and present this via a logbook
  4. Complete a Core Skills assessment (in Cave &/or Mine)
  5. Complete a Group Day assessment (in either Cave or Mine)
  6. Hold a valid 1st Aid certificate (16hr + course) to keep your award valid


To initially enter the scheme you are required to pay a one off registration fee to the BCA. No prior experience or training is required to get onto the scheme. Registration is done through the BCA qualification management system. The website is run by Go Membership, and British Canoeing members will have used it for their awards. You must be registered within 14 days of attending your training course or it might not be recognised.


The LCML award has 2 possible disciplines, Cave or Mine. A candidate will need to decide initially which training to undertake and this will be dictated by the region/s they intend to work in and also personal preference. Consider future employment and any possible moves to different regions but don’t panic, training the other discipline can be undertaken at any point in the future. If in doubt, try to gain training in both disciplines right at the start of your scheme progress, allowing you to ‘double-qualify’ in the future. Have a chat to your employer or local colleagues to get an idea of which pathway will be of most use in your region.

You can book onto a registered training course or organise your own private one with any Trainer/Assessor (T/A). The course will be advertised in one of the following formats:
Local Cave Leader Training (usually 2 days)
Local Mine Leader Training (usually 2 days)
Local Cave & Mine Leader Training (usually 3 days+)

If you have already attended a training course in 1 discipline in the past, and wish to extend your remit, you need to look for:
Cave to Mine transfer Training (1 day course)
Mine to Cave transfer Training (1 day course)

Before attending a training course you should have logged 12 or more underground trips. These don’t have to be 12 different caves or mines. Less than this number might be accepted by your T/A, but can impact the learning process of the training course. It is hoped that the experience gained by a candidate before training allows the T/A to focus more on teaching the leadership of groups than training you to be a caver or mine explorer. I certainly concentrate my courses on the skills that are harder to learn on your own. You can read up on geology etc… at home but it is far harder to learn about dynamic risk assessment, rope skills and practical leadership styles without input from a coach. I don’t consider LCML training to be training you to cave, I consider it to be training you to lead others underground. The leadership skills you receive on these courses can be directly applied to other areas of your outdoor career.

Gaining Experience

Fill in your logbook after every underground trip. Gain experience at and beyond the level of the intended award. Enjoy your caving and expand your skill set. You should not present yourself for assessment until you have a minimum of:

  • 1 year caving or mining experience
  • 30 trips or more in your logbook
  • 5 of these logged trips should be meet the Quality Trip definition
  • Some should be as a leader under supervision
  • Some can be beyond the level of the LCML award
  • Cave Leader candidates must have logged cave trips in 2 regions
  • Mine Leader candidates must have logged mine trips in 2 different mineral types, e.g. Metal, Stone or Slate
  • Cave and Mine Leaders must have done all of the above but only need a minimum of 30 trips in both disciplines, although it is highly advised more experience is gained than this. Aim for 30 in cave and 30 in mine

Core Skills Assessment

This was formerly the Module 1 assessment and will be a check over of your personal knowledge of the cave/mine environment, hazard awareness and ropework skills.
Core Skills assessments may involve 1 or 2 candidates and cover mine & cave if required. The T/A who did your training cannot assess this module, but any other T/A can be used in any area of the UK. Once complete, you have 12 months to undertake the Group Day to complete your assessment process.

If booking a Core Skills assessment with me, I will provide you with a home paper and I will require that back a minimum of 1 week before your assessment date. I will set the venue and agenda for the day. You will require all your own personal underground kit, but I can provide all ropes and hardware.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

Pass – move on to Group Day.
Defer – a small amount of written or verbal reassessment required at no additional cost if completed with myself within 30 days of original assessment.
Fail – a number of areas below par or a need to see you underground again. You will need to go away and consolidate before presenting for assessment again after an advised time. Can use another assessor.

Group Day Assessment

This was formerly the Module 2 assessment. It is a real trip with a real client group. I will be a shadow to you running a trip. Assessments are 1:1 at this module. Your work schedule must allow for approx. 30 minutes before and 1 hour of debrief time after the assessment. You cannot use the same T/A you used for the Core Skills assessment, but can now use the T/A who did your LCML training or any other local T/A. This assessment must take place in the region (or one of the regions) that you are adding sites to your award for.

If booking a Group Day assessment with me, I will require an annotated survey for each of the venues you wish to have listed on your certificate. The survey should indicate conservation points, hazards and interesting features. Also include notes on any ropework, flooding potential and the access details for the venue. You are trying to demonstrate a deep knowledge of the venues you wish to lead in. Guidance is available on Downloads page.

You will need to organise an appropriate group to visit one of the harder venues on your intended list. You will need to organise the entire session/day including equipment. If you do not have access to kit then please speak to me as I may be able to help. A guidance document can seen on the Downloads page.

The assessment syllabus can be seen on the Downloads page.

Pass – LCMLA award issued.
Defer – Some verbal or written task required to complete assessment.
Fail – Any cause for assessor to step in during day or need to see candidate underground with a group again. Can use another assessor.

Gaining Both Cave & Mine Awards

Possibly the most confusing element of the scheme is how to gain both disciplines. Hopefully here is some clarification.
If you have already completed a training course covering both cave and mine as outlined in the Training section above, you can either:

Complete Core Skills Cave -> Complete Group Day -> Complete Cave to Mine Transfer assessment = LCML Award
Complete Core Skills Mine -> Complete Group Day -> Complete Mine to Cave Transfer assessment = LCML Award
Complete Core Skills Cave or Mine -> Complete Core Skills for other discipline -> Complete Group Day = LCML Award

You DO NOT need to complete a second Group Day in the second discipline if you have already passed one discipline.
You however MAY be asked to do a practical visit or group day if the T/A thinks it is required. This is usually because a new site is far harder than ones on your award already and would not be appropriate to add via a paperwork exercise.

Training & Technical Services