North East expertise is being called upon to help the Chinese mining industry manage its sites more safely, responsibly and efficiently.
Regional employer Banks Mining was asked by SAWS, the Chinese State Administration of Work Safety, to share its practical experience and ideas on how it operates within the stringent UK safety regime, and how it strives to operate its surface mines in a safe, responsible and efficient manner.
Banks Mining’s health and safety manager Christian Adkins spent a day working with 18 senior directors from across nine different Chinese cities and provinces on how the family-owned employer proactively tackles health and safety issues at its surface mine sites, works with the relevant authorities to maintain compliance with all the relevant regulations, and empowers its employees to work as safely as possible through the provision of comprehensive training and development support.
And the event has been judged so successful that a second delegation of senior SAWS personnel will be visiting the UK in October for a further day with members of the Banks Mining team.
Founded in County Durham in 1976, The Banks Group has successfully worked and fully restored 110 surface mines across northern England and Scotland, and currently employs around 200 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines in Northumberland.
In 2014, Banks Mining made a major investment in setting up its own bespoke licensing and training scheme, which extended the training opportunities available to more than 250 operational employees and provided a framework through which skills and career development opportunities could be enhanced to the benefit of both employees and the business.
As part of the project, Banks Mining invested in both a full-time trainer to lead it and new on-site training facilities at the Shotton surface mine.
It was also the first UK mining firms to be awarded PRIME (Professional Recognition In Mineral Extraction) certification by the extractive industry’s leading professional body, The Institute of Quarrying, in recognition of the comprehensive provisions it makes for staff training, leadership and engagement at its Shotton site.
Christian Adkins, who prior to joining Banks Mining spent four years working in the mining industry in China, says: “The UK health and safety regime has developed over many years to become one of the most detailed and comprehensive in the world, and operators have to meet extremely stringent safety criteria across a wide variety of areas in order to work in the mining sector.
“Four decades experience of surface mining has given Banks Mining a unique insight into how this translates into everyday operating practices, what needs to be done to create the right working environment, how inspections and investigations are carried out by the relevant authorities, and the valuable contribution that our employees can make to developing, improving and implementing safety practices on the ground.
“The Chinese delegates had a great deal of questions about how we manage our health and safety responsibilities, our relationships with the bodies that implement them and the practical ways in which we encourage and enable our employees to work in ways which minimise and remove any foreseeable risks.
“Being asked to deliver a second session later in the year would suggest the delegates found the information we were sharing useful to their own situations, and we’re pleased to be contributing toward improving the safety levels to which our industry operates around the world.”
Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, adds: ” As a company working in an industry where managed risk is part of our everyday operations, we know we can never be complacent when it comes to health and safety, and that we must remain fully focused on related issues every single day.
“Creating the safest possible working environment in which our highly-skilled team can operate is an absolute priority for us, and we have continued to invest heavily over the years in the resources and expertise we need to ensure we do just that.