Leading figures in the international mining business have been in the region to see how a north east firm sets the operational standards for the industry at its Northumberland surface mines.
CoalPro member, north east-based Banks Mining hosted a visit to its Shotton mine, which sits on the Blagdon Estate to the west of Cramlington, as part of the annual EU-India Coal Working Group Meeting.
Banks’ planning director Philip Baker and projects director Barney Pilgrim were invited to give a presentation on best practice in surface mining on the first day of the two-day event, with particular reference to the environmental standards to which Banks’ sites operate and the range of work that the firm does with nearby communities to ensure that they gain tangible benefits from Banks’ presence in the area.
The delegates then travelled up from the conference venue in Leeds the next day to take a tour of the 300-hectare Shotton site, and to also visit the £3m Northumberlandia landform, which lies on land adjacent to the mine and which has been formed from 1.5 million tonnes of carefully-selected rock, clay and soil extracted from the mine.
Banks Mining employs around 150 people at Shotton, along with a further 50 employees at the nearby Brenkley Lane mine, and its mining operations in south east Northumberland are estimated to contribute around £20m to the regional economy every year.
The annual EU-India Coal Working Group provides a forum for senior mining industry personnel to discuss the latest developments in the business and to learn from each other’s experiences.
Speakers from the Indian Government, the European Commission and businesses in Asia, Australia, Germany and Spain shared the platform at this year’s event alongside Banks’ representatives and other speakers from UK companies and universities.
Philip Baker says: “Banks is acknowledged as an industry leader when it comes to the environmental practices we develop and the community work we undertake, and it was a real honour for us to be invited to talk about them in front of such a high-level audience.
“The mining industry operates on a far greater scale in many parts of the world than we work to in the UK, especially in India, where it’s not uncommon for up to 55 million tonnes of coal to be taken from the biggest surface mines in a year, compared to the 800,000 tonnes that come from the Shotton site in the same period.
“The UK mining industry faces different challenges to its peers in China, India and Australia, particularly around the community and environmental aspects of their operations – these are areas which Banks and other UK firms have been working to address for some time, and we hope that our international colleagues were able to get some ideas from us about addressing the challenges in these areas that they will undoubtedly face in the future.
“The way in which technology is being developed and deployed at great speed in overseas markets to maximise the use that can be made of coal reserves sets an example for operators here to follow, and the UK industry need to look at ways in which we can mimic this approach to both secure the markets in which we currently work and find new ones for the high quality coal we produce.”