“We mine coal because it is needed – and here’s why”, by-lined Journal article, by Gavin Styles

February 27, 2020 | Mining News

Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining

As a proud and passionate northerner, I read with hope the recent Journal campaigns – “Passionate People, Passionate Places” and “#Do1Thing”, where 50 Small Steps of practical change, that will help us protect the planet, are identified.

Northerners believe in community, we believe in hard work and we believe in practicality. After the General Election, Boris told us that we had been heard. He promised to care for our vote, a vote that was lent to him by many who had changed their lifetime voting habits. He promised to listen.

So, are you listening Boris?
The north doesn’t want handouts or platitudes. We want a fair playing field. Our renowned ingenuity brings practical solutions to practical problems, whether that’s through innovation or through improving existing technology. Think Joseph Swan bringing light to our homes or George Stephenson breaking barriers in bulk haulage with his locomotives. We provide practical solutions.

The great dilemma of today is how we address the climate emergency while keeping our standard of living? It’s not right that the privileged tell ordinary people that they must sacrifice while they continue to fly in private jets to their climate rallies; it’s not right that Extinction Rebellion extremists stop hardworking people travelling to work on public transport; and it’s not right that we import millions of tonnes of products with a far worse carbon footprint than UK produced goods.

What is right are practical solutions, and at Banks Group, that’s what we provide.

People need houses, so we provide the platform for sustainable developments. People need electricity, so we generate green electricity from our wind farms. People need coal, so we provide it at the lowest environmental cost. As a business we already operate at net zero as a result of our renewables generation and landscape management displacing emissions from our operations.

I am often asked why do we still mine coal. We mine it because it is needed. I’ll explain why.

Coal use in UK electricity generation will cease by 2024. This is achievable because there are practical, lower emission alternatives that can be deployed at the necessary scale, such as gas, renewables and nuclear. In the next four to five years no electricity will be generated in the UK using coal, but only half of the UK’s coal use is for electricity generation.

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Pictured above members of the Banks Mining team at Bradley surface coal mine in County Durham

To build the infrastructure we’ve been promised by the Prime Minister, we need steel and we need cement. Steel and cement currently need coal. Academics tell us that alternative technologies are available. They are, but they are not deployable at scale today. Moving to these new technologies involves risk and disruption, and will take significant levels of investment, planning and logistics. Businesses are working towards these solutions, and in time, I have no doubt they will provide practical alternatives, but today, they do not. So, what should we do while we wait?

The stark choice is whether we should shut industries down and offshore our emissions or make practical changes that reduce emissions in the process. The XR extremists tell us we don’t need these industries, they tell us to find a green job. Perhaps they can offer us all one? I have 250 hard-working, skilled northern lads and lasses working for me that they can speak to. These are people who are proud of what they do and how they do it, but who are worried about their jobs because of these loud, privileged, professional objectors, and more worryingly, because of the inability of those in power to listen to common sense and practicalities. They are worried that a decision on our Highthorn coal mine application has been sat in Westminster for two years despite a positive, unanimous cross party local decision with over 1,000 local letters of support and a government planning inspector that recognised it was in the national interest for it to go ahead.

These 250 hard-working, skilled northern lads and lasses and the many more people employed through our wider supply chain know that the coal is needed and that mining it here is better for the planet and here is why.

The UK imports coal in the millions of tonnes (10m in 2018). This was 84% of coal supply. Why import this much coal if it is not needed? For every tonne imported, there is a greenhouse gas cost of digging it and transporting it. Greta Thurnberg recognises the cost of offshoring our emissions, so too does the Committee on Climate Change. In 2018, the greenhouse gas cost of transport alone of 4.6 million tonnes of Russian coal was the equivalent of 130 jumbo jets flying non-stop around the world for a year! This is ludicrous when we can produce the coal and remove thousands of carbon-miles out of the process.

Coal loaded at the Bradley surface mine in County Durham
Pictured above coal loaded at the Bradley surface coal mine in County Durham

We have proved that we can mine and transport coal for far fewer greenhouse gas emissions than dragging it from Russia. Our proposed Dewley Hill mine, near Throckley will not only plant 33,000 trees but will also provide coal for steel making and cement for 45,000 fewer tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions than bringing the equivalent amount in from Russia. To help you visualise the scale of this benefit, the carbon saving is the same as covering half of North Tyneside in trees.

Landscape architect Mark Simmons with one of the first 3,500 saplings that were planted on the Bradley surface mine site last year, (2019), a number which will rise to around 10,500 by the end of the project
Landscape architect, Mark Simmons, with one of the first 3,500 saplings that were planed on the Bradley surface coal mine last year – a number with will rise to around 10,500 by the end of the project

Mining the coal we need in the UK is a simple, practical solution. It massively cuts greenhouse gases it creates good employment, and it is done under UK safety, employment and environmental standards. Can you say the same for coal produced in Russia?

We are following the advice of #Do1thing number 21, we are keeping it local.

Please tell your MP – don’t betray your voters, don’t offshore the UK’s carbon and well paid skilled northern jobs, stop the dither and delay, take back control of our emissions and help us transition to the low carbon future in a practical way.

Gavin Styles
Managing Director
Banks Mining

To see a scan of the hardcopy of the article and how it appeared in The Journal on Tuesday 25 February 2020, with permission from the Journal, please see: https://www.banksgroup.co.uk/core/uploads/Scan-of-Journal-J2-piece-We-mine-coal-because-we-need-it-by-Gavin-Styles-Tues-25-Feb-2020.pdf

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