Up to 50 new jobs are set to be created over the next six months with the official start of work at a new West Lothian surface mine.
Banks Mining, part of The Banks Group, has commenced preparatory operations at the Rusha surface mine, which is situated around half a mile south-east of the village of Breich.
Banks, which has an office in Hamilton, has permission to undertake operations at Rusha for a seven-year period, and once coaling is complete, the 154-hectare site will be fully restored and landscaped to a mixture of woodland and agriculture.
The company estimates that the Rusha site will contribute more than £5 million to the local economy every year through wages and other supply chain contributions, and in addition to the people employed on site, it will also support a number of other off-site jobs in related transport and supplies activity.
Banks will also deliver a range of community and environmental improvements in partnership with local people through a benefits fund that will offer substantial capital support for projects in the area, to help ensure tangible, long-term benefits result from the company’s presence there.
Preparatory work, including the construction of the site compound, the creation of new crossing points over existing Scottish Water pipelines and archaeological investigations will take place over the next few months. Soil stripping will begin as soon as ground and weather conditions are suitable, which will hopefully be in early Spring, with initial excavations following in midsummer in advance of the start of coaling in the autumn.
All the coal extracted will be utilised by Scottish-based solid fuel import, export and distribution business Fergusson Group.
Coal from the Rusha surface mine will be used by Fergusson Group to fulfil supply contracts in the UK energy sector and the domestic retail market.
It will be taken away from Rusha via the A71 and A73, meaning that it will not go through either Longridge or Whitburn.
The route through Longridge and Whitburn was included in the original planning application, but after listening to community concerns about traffic movements through the settlements, Banks moved to make alternative arrangements for the coal’s transportation.
Award-winning noise reduction technologies developed by Banks’ own engineers will be utilised on site, along with a number of other measures that will also minimise the impact of operations on local communities. Environmental audits will also be carried out on site on a quarterly basis to ensure that operations are being carried out to the agreed standards.
Banks Mining is a major coal producer in the UK, having operated more than 100 surface mines over more than three decades, and has extensive experience of successfully running mining operations in Scotland.
Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, says: “We’re very excited to be reaching this milestone, especially as it comes at a time when very few other firms are making this sort of investment in West Lothian.
“The on and off-site jobs that this scheme will support and the money that it will see entering the local economy will make a real difference to the area, as will the benefits fund that will support local community and environmental projects..
“Jobs will be available on site for suitably-qualified local people, and we will ensure that everyone in the area is aware of when these opportunities are going to be advertised.
“Coal will play a significant role in meeting the UK’s energy requirements for the foreseeable future, and we’re pleased to have reached an agreement with a well-regarded, locally-based supplier for the sale of the coal that we are producing in Scotland for use in Scotland.
“We have extensive experience of successfully running surface mine operations in Scotland, and are looking forward to extending this record at the Rusha site over the coming years.”
Fergusson Group is jointly-owned and managed by brothers Tom and Alan Fergusson.
A joint statement from Tom and Alan Fergusson said: “The agreement with Banks Mining further strengthens our indigenous supply chain and ensures that we are positioned effectively to fulfil our supply commitments across the UK energy sector as well as the domestic retail market.
“As well as allowing us to meet the changing demands of our customer base, this long-term security in our indigenous supply will also support our continued strategy of developing new sales opportunities across an expanding market place.”
Anyone wishing to express an interest in future job vacancies at the Rusha site can do so by contacting Banks’ Human Resources department via email@example.com
For further information on the project please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/rusha