Banks Mining has started a first round of consultations on job losses for employees at its surface mine near Newcastle.
Up to 24 jobs are expected to be lost at the Brenkley Lane surface mine which has finished coal excavation and is now substantially restored and landscaped.
And with no replacement mines permitted to replace Banks’ existing mines due to delays in planning decisions, a further 220 skilled North East jobs are at risk with the company.
Banks Mining has been waiting for a final government decision on whether its proposed Highthorn surface mine in Northumberland can go ahead for more than 18 months.
Managing director Gavin Styles says: “It is heartbreaking for me to have to tell dozens of members of my team that we can no longer employ them, even though there is still significant demand from British industry for the coal and fireclay that they mine and their work is of the very highest standard. It is a sickening punch in the gut for everyone here.
“Many of my dedicated and highly-skilled colleagues have worked with us for years and now, through no fault of their own, they are facing the prospect of needlessly losing their jobs at just about the worst time imaginable.
“They and their families should not be in this awful situation, especially as it could so easily have been avoided if the government had listened to its own experts and approved our Highthorn scheme years ago.
“Whilst British industry still needs coal it should be mined here in the UK. It’s better for jobs, it’s better for the environment. We have continued to do everything we can to make the case for approval and to make the consequences of the secretary of state’s failure to make a timely decision on Highthorn crystal clear – but so far, it’s all been to no avail.
“If the government continues to avoid taking responsibility in this way, there will undoubtedly be further consultations on redundancies to follow which will once again be directly down to its indefensible inaction.
“By not making a decision on Highthorn, they are letting these people and their families down – and with almost four million people already expected to be unemployed across the UK, this is a scandalous dereliction of duty.
“We will now work closely with our colleagues and union representatives in the coming weeks and will do everything we possibly can to provide maximum support to all those affected by this demoralising situation.
“We remain proud to have invested consistently in North East England for more than four decades, to have employed thousands of excellent people during that time given contracts to hundreds of local businesses and contributed millions of pounds to community projects across the county.”
Jerry Swain, Unite The Union’s National Officer for Construction at Unite The Union, adds: “The painful consequences of the government’s cowardly, illogical failure to act on their own planning inspector’s recommendation that the Highthorn scheme should go ahead are now being played out in these job losses, the responsibility for which lies firmly at their door.
“Boris Johnson’s personal promise to repay the trust of the North East voters who returned him to Downing Street a few months ago has swiftly been shown to be worthless.
“His administration clearly values the jobs of Russian and American miners more highly than the highly-skilled northern workforce at Banks Mining and the longstanding local supply chain that they’re abandoning here without a backward glance.
“The government’s baffling inaction on Highthorn even ignores its own minister Kwasi Kwarteng’s comment in the House of Commons that ‘from a coal and carbon emissions reduction point of view, it makes sense to have a locally-based coal source rather than shipping it in a very costly way halfway round the world.’
“Everyone knows just how horrendous the situation that we’re all now facing is, and how much more deeply the consequences will be felt in a part of the country that already has severe economic challenges, so to see dozens of skilled North East workers being casually abandoned due to government negligence like this is bordering on the criminal.”