February 8, 2013 | Brenkley News
A delegation of senior Newcastle councillors have been out on site to find out more from Banks Mining about the surface mining industry’s continuing contribution to the regional economy.
North east-based Banks hosted a visit by Newcastle City Council leader Cllr Nick Forbes and cabinet members Cllrs Henri Murison and Michael Johnson to the Brenkley Lane surface mine, which sits on the border between Newcastle and Northumberland near Seaton Burn.
The visit was organised by Banks to tie in with the Council’s Working City initiative, which aims to support commercial development, investment and growth within its boundaries, and to build a greater understanding of all aspects of the city’s business community.
The Council representatives were shown how Banks’ substantial investments in training, skills development, plant and machinery all help to ensure the Brenkley Lane site operates with both maximum efficiency and minimum environmental impact.
They were also briefed on Banks’ other regional and national operations, which encompass renewable energy and property development, and on the company’s heritage in the area, which dates back more than 35 years.
Banks employs over 400 people in total, around 60 of whom work at the Brenkley Lane site, including two of the four apprentices that were recently taken on by the firm as part of a new two-year training programme.
A further 140 people are also employed at the neighbouring Shotton surface mine, and the sites jointly contribute over £20m every year to the regional economy through wages and the local supply chain.
Revenues from the Brenkley Lane operations have already provided substantial support to a range of local community and environment projects in the area via a £240,000 benefits fund funded by the mining operations.
These include a £12,500 grant for refurbishment work at Dinnington Village Hall and a £10,000 donation to cover the cost of resurfacing Stannington Village Hall’s car park, and a further £66,000 of the total fund has already allocated towards a number of other local projects.
Cllr Nick Forbes says: “Banks Mining is one of our city’s big private sector employers, and I see firms like them as key to fulfilling Newcastle’s ambition to become a working city.
“I also applaud Banks’ commitment to training and apprenticeships, and its community programme which has paid for a range of projects that improve day-to-day life in local communities.”
Banks is currently looking to secure planning permission for the proposed Ferneybeds surface mine, which would be located to the south of the village of Widdrington Station, around three miles north west of Ashington, and which would directly support around 40 local jobs.
Mark Dowdall, Banks’ environment and community director, adds: “Banks has long been a major employer in this area for more than three decades, as well as a significant contributor to the local economy in various different ways, and many of our employees live within the Newcastle City Council boundaries.
“We’re always pleased to show guests how modern surface mines operate, and to show them the ways in which the investments we make in training, supporting and equipping our workforce all contribute towards building a successful, sustainable regional business.
“Around 31 per cent of the electricity used in the UK is currently produced by coal-fired power stations, and whilst many companies including ourselves are investing in new renewable energy technologies, coal is undoubtedly going to be a central part of the country’s ‘energy mix’ for the foreseeable future.
“We’re grateful to Councillor Forbes and his cabinet colleagues for taking the time to see for themselves the investments we’ve made and operations we carry out in this part of their administrative area, and think that they were genuinely impressed with what they saw.”