Crews from Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service have been on site at the North East’s biggest surface mine for a training exercise designed to help them train for managing industrial emergencies.
The Service has worked with regional employer Banks Mining to simulate a range of realistic training scenarios at its Shotton surface mine near Cramlington that it might come across in real life.
Procedures for managing fuel spillages, vehicle collisions and emergency medical evacuations were carried out during the exercise, with retained fire personnel joining their regular colleagues during the exercise and members of the Banks team also playing a full part.
Formal holding areas were established to provide a focal point for the management of each situation, while breathing apparatus was also deployed.
David Percival, watch manager at West Hartford Community Fire Station, who organised the training exercise, says: “We look to work with a range of North East businesses and organisations to both help share our knowledge and refine our responses to situations in industrial and workplace locations that we might one day have to face for real.
“The size and physical layout of the Shotton site and the scale of the plant equipment that’s used there provides us with a unique environment in which we can test the resilience of our systems, our planning and our crews, and the exercise provided a lot of valuable learning experiences for both ourselves and the Banks team.
“The Shotton team works to a very professional standard, which helped make the logistics of the operation straightforward and allowed us to easily share a great deal of useful information before, during and after the exercise.”
Family-owned Banks Mining has been working in South East Northumberland for the last four decades, and contributes around £35m to the regional economy every year from the Shotton and nearby Brenkley Lane sites through wages, investments and the local supply chain.
The company operates its own bespoke licensing and training scheme, which is designed to go beyond existing minerals industry standards to offer operational staff the chance to broaden their knowledge and experience in the safe, responsible and efficient ways of working.
The Shotton site was also one of the first in the UK to achieve The Institute of Quarrying’s PRIME (Professional Recognition In Mineral Extraction) accreditation in recognition of the comprehensive provisions it makes for staff training, leadership and engagement.
Neil Cook, manager at the Shotton surface mine, adds: “Working as we do in an industry where managed risk is part of everyday operations, safety is always our absolute priority, and we invest significant amounts of time, money and resources to ensure our workforce has the skills and knowledge required to minimise or negate any potential operational or personal risks.
“Banks Mining has an exemplary safety record, but we can never be complacent, and the insight and knowledge shared by the Fire & Rescue Service teams will help us further refine the detailed safety plans and provisions we have in place.”
Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, says: “We have been investing in Northumberland for the last four decades and are proud of our long track record of creating local employment and supply chain opportunities, as well as of the many community and environmental enhancements that our operations have helped to fund right across the region.
“The high-quality coal and fireclay produced at our Shotton and nearby Brenkley Lane surface mines helps to meet the UK’s continuing need for essential minerals to supply industries including our steel, cement and brick manufacturers, reducing the country’s growing reliance on imported supplies and minimising greenhouse gas emissions relating to transportation.
“We can both mine and transport the coal and fireclay from our surface mines in North East England to UK customers with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than are released from just transporting coal imports over thousands of miles, while further increasing the UK’s reliance on such imports is off-shoring our environmental responsibilities and will result in increases in global greenhouse gas emissions.
“It makes clear sense to support local skilled British jobs here in North East England, deliver regional environmental and conservation enhancements, avoid these additional greenhouse gas emissions caused by transporting coal imports over these vast distances, boost the UK’s balance of payments and meet our nation’s continuing need for coal by using secure domestic reserves.”