North East employer Banks Mining has begun a further round of consultation on job losses, this time at its Bradley surface mine in County Durham after plans for a small extension there were turned down.
Up to a dozen jobs are expected to be lost at the Bradley site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton, as coaling reaches its conclusion and the focus turns to landscaping and restoration.
A separate redundancy consultation is already underway on up to 24 job losses at Banks Mining’s Brenkley Lane surface mine near Newcastle – and with no replacement mines currently permitted to replace Banks’ existing mines due to delays in planning decisions, a total of 250 skilled North East jobs are at risk with the County Durham-headquartered, family-owned firm.
Banks Mining had been looking to progress plans for a small extension on land to the west of the Bradley site, which would have entailed extracting around 90,000 tonnes of high quality coal for supply to UK steel manufacturers and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay for use by regional brickmakers.
However, despite a clear recommendation for approval from Durham County Council’s planning officers, the proposal was rejected by a majority of the members of the Council’s planning committee last month, a decision which has now led to the instigation of the redundancy consultation.
Managing director Gavin Styles says: “We have a highly skilled and dedicated workforce at our Bradley site, the great majority of whom live in surrounding communities, and they have done an exceptional job over the last two and a half years.
“I am hugely frustrated, angry and sad to have to tell my skilled, hard-working and loyal team at Bradley that we will no longer be able to employ all of them, even though there is still significant demand from British industry for the coal and fireclay that they produce.
“We have been continuing, without any support from the public purse, to invest in training resources which ensure our colleagues’ certifications remain fully up-to-date and transferable and will continue to do everything we possibly can to provide maximum support to all those affected by this demoralising situation.”
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 North East economy.
A planning application for Banks’ proposed Dewley Hill surface mine to the west of Newcastle is also set to be considered by Newcastle City Council in the coming months.
This scheme would see around 800,000 tonnes of high quality coal extracted from the site, most of which will be used for industrial purposes such as the production of steel and cement, as well as 400,000 tonnes of fireclay, which will be used in the manufacturing of bricks at the local brickworks.
The most recent official figures show that around eight million tonnes of coal were used in the UK in 2019, with more than 80 per cent of it being imported and around two-thirds of it utilised for purposes other than electricity generation.
Gavin Styles continues: “While British industry still needs coal, it is patently obvious that it is better for our climate and for our jobs to mine it here in the UK, rather than exporting our jobs and increasing global greenhouse gas emissions by relying even more on importing coal over thousands of miles from Russia, the USA and Colombia.
“We have continued to do everything we can to make the case for the approval of our Highthorn scheme and to make the consequences of the government’s failure to provide a timely decision on it crystal clear – but so far, it’s all been to no avail.
“By not making a decision on Highthorn, they are letting hundreds of people in the North East and their families down at the most difficult time imaginable – and with almost four million people already expected to be unemployed across the UK, this inaction represents a scandalous dereliction of duty.
“As a County Durham-based business, we remain proud to have invested consistently in North East England for more than four decades, 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 region.”