In 1938, there were several associations in existence, formed by the UK mining equipment manufacturers to establish safety standards for equipment used in the coal mining industry. In 1978, these associations combined to form ABMEC, with a view to continuing the development of standards internationally, as well as promoting the export of UK mining equipment.

The mandate was to assist member companies to increase their export of mining equipment predominantly within the coal mining industry.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s there were approximately 120 independent member companies and the then National Coal Board (NCB) dominated their equipment supply business. The UK has seen a dramatic decline in its indigenous coal mining industry from over 600 operational coal mines to the present when there are now less than 10. This market reduction forced the member companies to change their strategy to be export-led rather than relying on the UK market.