SNP Commons Spokesperson urges “joined up” approach to energy and manufacturing

February 1, 2017 | Mining News

The SNP’s House of Commons spokesperson for small business, enterprise and innovation, Hannah Bardell MP, (SNP, Livingston), has urged the UK to seek more “joined up” thinking with Scotland as the steel industry shows signs of a recovery.

Coal continues to be required for steel and other vital industries such as food production, cement manufacture, patent fuel manufacture (smokeless briquettes) and carbon fibre product manufacture.

Speaking following a visit to Banks Mining’s Rusha surface mine in West Lothian, Hannah Bardell MP pointed to the resurgence of the steel industry in Scotland with the reopening of the Dalzell Plant in Motherwell, as opportunities for the remaining parts of the Scottish and UK coal industry.

The SNP MP for Livingston stressed the need to support the coal industry, while demand is still being met by imported coal – and for UK coal to play a direct role in the continued transition towards a low carbon economy powered by renewable energy and technologies such as carbon capture.

Hannah Bardell MP, said: “Scotland is committed to a low carbon economy, yet the UK continues to import coal on such a scale.

“All the coal Scotland now needs is imported from England or Wales, but the vast majority (around 70 per cent) comes from much further afield from Colombia, Russia, the USA and Australia.  Similarly the UK as a whole currently imports over 70 per cent of the coal it needs to generate electricity and manufacture iron, steel and cement et al from Colombia, Russia, the USA and Australia.

“It makes far greater sense to support Scottish and UK jobs, to provide a secure domestic supply of coal – a valuable industrial mineral – through mining indigenous coal reserves and delivering regional environmental and conservation enhancements, rather than relying on imports of coal and gas from potentially-unstable overseas markets that are thousands of miles distant.

“It isn’t just traditional manufacturing that represents a market for UK mined coal: As I understand it a good proportion of the rolled steel that the Dalzell Plant in Motherwell is now producing is to be used in the manufacture of tower sections for on and off-shore wind turbines.  This is a very real example of how coal is a vital bridge to the low carbon economy.”

The Rusha surface mine, near Breich, is operated by Hamilton based Banks Mining.  Coal extraction was suspended at Rusha in 2016 following the closure of Longannet, Scotland’s last coal fired power station at the end of March 2016.

The family firm is now fully restoring the Rusha site to a mix of diverse woodland and grazing land; reflecting how the land was used prior to coal extraction.

Positive news followed the postponement of coaling at Rusha in July 2016, as Banks Mining was awarded a contract by East Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, to restore a former surface coal mine at Ponesk near Muirkirk.  As a result, all staff at the Rusha site were given the opportunity to move, with opportunities to remain on site at Rusha during the various phases of the extensive restoration process.

Hannah added: “We must also ensure that the legacy of our mining industry is properly looked after.

“From restoring mines and ensuring that the interest of Scottish workers are protected we are pleased with the way companies like Banks are approaching their commitments to the communities in which they work.”

Jim Donnelly, operations director with Banks Mining, said: “As a family firm, continuity of employment for our highly skilled workforce is very important to us.  Through the restoration work at Rusha and securing the restoration contract at Ponesk we are pleased to have been able to protect jobs and maintain our investment in Scotland as much as possible.”

Since 2012 when operations on site at Rusha started, Banks Mining estimate that the Rusha site has contributed more than £5 million to the local economy each year, through wages and other supply chain contributions.

Coal is a vital bridge to the low carbon economy.

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