Regional employer Banks Mining is continuing to support the development of its skilled North East workforce, despite government inaction on whether its future operational plans in the region can be progressed.
The family-owned firm has invested in making its Shotton surface mine near Cramlington an official test centre for the National Plant Operators Registration Scheme (NPORS), one of the UK’s leading accreditation and registration bodies which offers industrial qualifications across a wide range of sectors, including construction, agriculture, ports and marine.
Banks Mining has been waiting for 28 months – far longer than any other planning application – for a government decision on whether its proposed Highthorn surface mine in Northumberland can go ahead, a project which would see an investment of £100m into the Northumberland economy.
It has just announced a first round of consultation on up to 24 job losses at its Brenkley Lane surface mine near Newcastle, with a further 220 skilled North East jobs being at risk with the company due to delays in planning decisions.
Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, says: “We and our highly-skilled workforce have unnecessarily been left in the lurch by the government’s failure to make a decision on our Highthorn scheme, even though British industry undeniably still needs coal and fireclay for a range of essential manufacturing processes.
“Whilst UK industry still needs coal, it makes economic, social, ecological, environmental and climate sense to mine it here.
“We’re continuing, without any support from the public purse, to support and invest in our people to ensure their certifications remain fully up-to-date and transferable, even though the threat to their jobs and our operations is a direct result of our government’s failure to take responsibility for this long-overdue planning decision.”
“Making our Shotton site an accredited NPORS testing centre means the qualifications our team members achieve have the extra credibility of being recognised right across the construction and extractive industries, and enhances what they will have offer other employers if we are no longer able to employ them.
“Without being able to progress new sites like Highthorn, all these local training and development opportunities, along with the 250 jobs sustained by our mining operations, will simply and unjustly disappear.”
The first four members of the Shotton team have now successfully completed an NPORS recognised qualification after undertaking assessments on some of the different types of plant machinery used at the site.
Keith Milligan, Andy Scott, Tyler Lloyd and Charles Barnes have all gained a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, a nationally-recognised accreditation for construction sites which demonstrates each holder’s status as a competent plant operator.
Several more members of the Banks Mining team, including employees from its Brenkley Lane and Bradley surface mines, are scheduled to undergo NPORS assessments at Shotton in the coming weeks, while trainers Ewan Cowie and David Smith have qualified as NPORS test examiners as part of the project.
Plant operator Keith Milligan, who is from Widdrington and has worked for Banks Mining for almost three years, adds: “The NPORS qualification covered a wide range of workplace and safety processes that are essential for the work we’re doing now and will also help us find work elsewhere in the future if we need to.
“We live in an area of high unemployment, and not being able to work the Highthorn scheme will have a serious impact, not just directly on us, but also on the dozens of local businesses that supply us who’ll suddenly have to deal with losing one of their biggest customers.”
Keith Tarn, group human resources manager at The Banks Group, says: “Our first four NPORS candidates are all highly impressive operators and the skills they have developed and refined while working towards this assessment will help them right through their working lives.”