Banks News

Restoration of ‘unattractive’ Ponesk surface mine draws praise from political and community leaders

Ian Ramsey & Lise Bech who live in the nearest house to the Ponesk site

Banks Mining was appointed by East Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust (SMRT) to design and implement the restoration scheme at the Ponesk surface mine, near the town of Muirkirk.

The Ponesk site, along with the adjacent Spireslack mine, was abandoned when former operators Scottish Coal went into administration in the early part of 2013. The Banks Mining team started work in early July 2016, and are expected to be on site for around 22 months, until around May 2018.

A wide range of local stakeholders, from across the political spectrum, have commended the work undertaken by Hamilton based Banks Mining so far.

David McDowall, Operations Manager at East Ayrshire Council, said:  “Restoration operations are well underway at Ponesk and already we are seeing a positive impact on the views of the former opencast coal complex from the A70.  We anticipate that the remaining works will continue to address some of the issues of the abandoned coal site.

“East Ayrshire Council welcomes the active involvement of local residents at the well-attended Community Liaison Committee.”

Jeane Freeman MSP, SNP, Carrick, Cumnock & Doon Valley, commented: “I share the concern and upset of many people who live here about the safety and visual impact of abandoned surface mines in Ayrshire.  So I am pleased that Banks Mining is working with the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust to restore the Ponesk site.

“When the restoration is completed, the site will have a range of new wildlife habitats and a number of new accessible paths to provide public access.   All of this has also provided job opportunities for local people and that is welcome.  I wish Banks every success with the rest of the restoration.”

Alan Brown MP, SNP, Kilmarnock and Loudoun, stated: “I have been concerned about the safety and look of abandoned surface mines in Ayrshire, including Ponesk, for some years now.  I am therefore pleased that Banks Mining is working with the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust to restore the Ponesk site.  I am aware that Banks Mining has a 40 year track record in restoring surface mines in a sensitive and innovative way. I have been pleased to see how the works have progressed.”

Rt Hon Lord Foulkes of Cumnock, Labour, said: “Following the demise of Scottish Coal a number of surface mines sites were abandoned in East Ayrshire and elsewhere in Scotland.  Some were left not only in an unattractive state but in a dangerous one.  Scottish politicians of all sides have been very concerned about this for some years.  So naturally I am pleased that Banks Mining is working with the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust to make safe and restore the Ponesk site, adjacent to the abandoned Spireslack surface mine, in East Ayrshire.”

Ian Ramsey & Lise Bech who live in the nearest house to the Ponesk site, said: “I want to say how impressed we are with the progress of the work of reshaping and covering the site.  It is also impressive to see the skill of the bulldozers working on the steepest of slopes there and perhaps you could pass our respect for their skill and risk taking to the drivers.  It seems that [Banks Mining]’s approach is somewhat more dynamic than previous firms opposite as the work progresses so quickly and it is quite a surprise to us that so little time was in fact needed to at least reform the site when protracted delays over the last 40-50 years have characterised the deserted state of the lands opposite.  It’s not often in living up here that we have felt grateful or impressed at what has occurred opposite.”

Professor Russel Griggs OBE, chairman of Scottish Mines Restoration Trust (SMRT), said: “To support the restoration of opencast mines that have been abandoned as a result of operators going into administration and liquidation, our objective has always been to engage with the stakeholders involved in the restoration process and to work with them to find solutions to the challenges and opportunities the sites of coal mines present in communities.

“We met this key objective for the Ponesk site by bringing together all relevant groups – along with Banks, which has a fine track record of delivering previous restoration projects – to implement a pragmatic and innovative approach to restoration.  The success of the Ponesk project demonstrates what can be achieved when community groups, landowners, the private sector and Government work together.”

The support underlines the popularity of the project with the surrounding community, who are pleased to see the area return to safe and accessible arable land and continue to engage at well-attended liaison meetings.

The landscaping and restoration of the site has been designed to optimize the future use by the community with public accessibility and the protection of wildlife habitats a priority.

Works on the Ponesk site – which was abandoned in early 2013 – began in July 2016 and was originally expected to be completed by around early summer 2018, however, work is progressing very well and it is anticipated that the site will be completed ahead of schedule.

Banks Mining is scheduled to start restoration of the neighbouring Spireslack site once the Ponesk project has been completed.

Founded in County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has operated and restored over 110 surface mines across Scotland and the north of England over the last 40 years, and has substantial experience of carrying out the type of work required at Ponesk.

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