North East employer Banks Mining has submitted a planning application for a small extension to its surface mining operations on land to the west of its Bradley surface mine near Leadgate in County Durham.
Having announced at the start of the year that it was investigating the possibility of mining in the area, the family-owned firm has now published detailed plans for extracting around 90,000 tonnes of high quality coal for supply to UK industrial customers and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay for use by regional brickmakers.
And Banks has reiterated its commitment to completing operational and restoration work there to the same August 2021 deadline to which the existing Bradley site is operating if it is able to move the project forward through a positive local planning decision.
The proposed additional area covers 18.5 hectares of land between the western edge of the current Bradley site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton, and the Jolly Drovers public house roundabout.
It would provide continued employment for the 36 people currently working at Bradley, more than half of whom live within five miles of the site, as well as additional investment in the local supply chain.
Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, says: “The Bradley site has been fully operational for 18 months and we are producing high-quality coal in the safest, most efficient and most responsible way possible which is helping to meet the UK’s continuing need for it for use in a range of essential industries, such as steel, cement and food production.
“While it was great, for example, to see hundreds of British jobs saved by the recent rescue of British Steel, it is impossible to ignore the facts that coal is an indispensable part of the steel-making process, that it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future and that these jobs depend entirely on the ready availability of suitable coal supplies.
“Around 80% of the UK’s need for coal is currently met through imports, increasingly from the US and particularly Russia, and the greenhouse gas emissions of importing coals from these countries is significantly higher than producing it in the UK.
“This reliance on imports simply off-shores our environmental responsibilities, results in increases in global greenhouse gas emissions and further distorts the true picture of the UK’s total emissions, which should be measured not just on what we make here, but also on what we buy in from abroad.
“We can mine, transport to our UK customers and restore our surface mines in North East England with significantly lower greenhouse gas emissions than are released from just the transportation alone of coal from places like Russia, and we can do so safely while creating well-paid jobs and adding value to both the North East and wider UK economies.”
The proposed extension will enable the delivery of enhanced landscaping proposals to a wider area, providing long-term biodiversity and public access benefits in the Pont Valley.
It would also allow Banks Mining to increase its support for local community groups and charities from the Bradley community benefits fund from £52,000 to £100,000, with individual grants of up to £3,000 which are predominantly for capital projects being available to deserving local causes.
The Bradley West planning application is expected to be considered by Durham County Council’s planning committee in spring next year.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, adds: “We’re living up to our promise to provide local employment, contract opportunities and revenues for community improvements through the Bradley site, as well as contributing positively to the UK’s balance of payments, and are committed to taking the same approach at Bradley West.
“The amount so far invested by Banks Mining in the local supply chain for equipment and services at the Bradley surface mine is now over £3.5m, with the great majority of the project’s contractor spend so far having gone to businesses and service providers based in North East England, and this additional work would generate substantially more local investment.
“It makes clear sense to make efficient use of local mineral resources in this way rather than further increase our reliance on imports from distant locations, especially when we can complete work on Bradley West within the same period as the existing site if we are allowed to take it forward on the back of a local planning decision.
“We hope Durham County Council’s planning committee will recognise the many merits of this carefully-designed scheme which we will operate to the highest industry standards.”
Founded in County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has so far worked, restored and landscaped over 111 surface mines across northern England and Scotland.
Alongside its Bradley workforce, it also employs around 170 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington in Northumberland with a further 100 employed at its head office in Meadowfield near to Durham.