Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, says: “We are extremely disappointed that, more than four years after an independent planning inspector recommended that the Highthorn scheme should go ahead, the Secretary of State has once again chosen to go against this expert advice.

“At a time when our region and country is facing an unprecedented economic crisis, this decision effectively hands the much-needed and valued jobs of our North East workforce to Russian miners, who will be delighted to meet British industry’s continuing need for coal whilst simultaneously significantly increasing global greenhouse gas emissions.

“This decision won’t solve the problem, but will instead make it worse.

“We are grateful to the thousands of people and businesses who have given their backing to this project, including our colleagues and their families, our suppliers, customers and business associates, and the politicians who recognise the reasons why it is important for British industry to have a locally-based coal source.

“We are just so very saddened that this misplaced decision stops us from being in a position to offer them and the many people living in the surrounding communities who supported the Highthorn application the continued support through jobs and investment that they so richly deserve and need.

“We will now review the precise reasons for this decision before agreeing on the most appropriate steps to take.”