Banks mine restoration projects praised by visiting industry experts

November 28, 2013 | Brenkley News

The quality of the restoration work carried out by a North East mining firm at its surface mining schemes in the region has been recognised by a party of visiting industry experts.

A delegation from the British Land Reclamation Society (BLRS) has been visiting a number of Banks Mining’s sites to see how the company manages the land it utilises, and how the company’s ‘restoration first’ approach brings specific benefits for the communities around the mines both during and after coaling.

The 25-strong BLRS party, who came from locations across the UK for the event, visited the operational Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington before going on to the nearby recently-completed 46-hectare South Park on the Blagdon Estate, which formed part of Banks’ Delhi surface mine.

This land has been specifically restored to recreate a 200 year-old Northumberland landscape that was lost decades ago, and a plan of the Estate from 1755 as well as aerial photographs from the 1940s were used by Banks to design its restoration.

The project was completed in early 2013 in the style of famed Northumberland-born landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, which had influenced the land’s original layout.

The BLRS group, which encompassed both serving industry professionals and students, also visited the £3m Northumberlandia landform, which lies on land adjacent to the Shotton mineand which was developed to deliver a lasting positive legacy for both the local area and the wider region at an early stage in the development of the mine, rather than after the end of mining operations.

Mike Poremba, a Gateshead-based member of the British Land Reclamation Society’s executive committee, says: “Having these sites in such close proximity gave us a unique chance to see surface mining operations in a number of different stages, from an operational site and one where restoration work is ongoing to an area which has been mined twice in the last 60 years and which is now being restored to its historical status.

“This excellent example of restoration work helps to bring the theory of our practice to life, and the exchange of information we enjoyed through the day, especially about the history and current status of each of the projects, was extremely valuable to all our delegates.

“The Northumberlandia project has previously been featured in our Society’s publication, so the visit was a great chance for our members from outside the North East to see it for themselves in its proper context.”

Banks employs over 200 people across the Shotton and Brenkley Lane sites, and contributes around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments and the local supply chain.  It also provides more than £400,000 in annual business rates to Northumberland County Council and Newcastle City Council through the two projects.

The Durham-based family business is currently conducting a public consultation around the proposed Highthorn surface mine, to the east of the village of Widdrington Station, which would sustain over 150 local jobs for more than a decade and provide an opportunity to add new and improved community and tourism resources to the area.

Mark Simmons, landscape architect at the Banks Group, who hosted the BLRS visit, adds: “Our responsibility for the land that we work lasts for many years after we finish coaling – the restoration and aftercare of a site is just as much of a priority as the operational side of any scheme, and we aim to deliver a lasting positive legacy for both the local area and the wider region at the earliest possible stage of our mining operations.

“The success of Northumberlandia as a leisure resource, tourist attraction and cultural landmark has clearly demonstrated how surface mining operations can lead to the creation of new facilities that have a long-term impact on the local community, and we are working on exactly how the same objective could be achieved for the proposed Highthorn scheme.

“A huge amount of careful planning and detailed work goes into our restoration schemes to ensure the final outcomes match our ambitions, and we’re pleased to have got such a positive response to our work in the North East from these experts in their field.”

For further information on the project, please visit www.banksgroup.co.uk/highthorn or contact the project team on 0844 209 1515 (local rate call from a BT landline).

For further information on The British Land Reclamation Society (BLRS), please visit http://www.blrs.org/  or contact Mike Poremba on 0191 433 3459, or Scott Elliott on 07808 669104 or via scott.elliott1971@gmail.com

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