North East employer Banks Mining has made a six-figure equipment investment at its Bradley surface mine in County Durham.

The County Durham-headquartered firm has acquired a Komatsu PC3000-6 excavator for use at the Bradley site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton, following the good service of a similar machine at its Shotton surface mine in Northumberland.

The 254 tonne excavator had previously been operating at the Hinkley Point nuclear power station development site in Somerset before being moved to Banks Mining’s depot at Thrislington in County Durham and then taken the 23 miles to the Bradley site to be rebuilt by a pair of 200 tonne cranes.

In line with The Banks Group’s ‘development with care’ approach, the excavator uses a single V12 engine, which is a similar power output to that of rival twin-engine machines while using less fuel.

Komatsu has recruited a locally-based service engineer to be based permanently on site and has also placed a stock of consumable parts at Bradley to ensure the excavator is kept working for the maximum time possible.

Forty-one jobs are being directly supported at the Bradley site, alongside others in the local supply chain, and the coal that has so far been produced has been supplied to a number of Banks Mining’s industrial customers around the UK.

The family-owned firm recently announced plans to extract around 100,000 tonnes of high quality coal for supply to UK industrial customers from land to the west of the Bradley site which it is aiming to complete within the same timescale to which the existing site is operating.

Robbie Bentham, plant director at Banks Mining, says: “Giving our highly-skilled teams the equipment they need to work our sites in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible is an essential part of our overall operational strategy.

“We’re living up to our promise to provide local employment, contract opportunities and revenues for community improvements through the Bradley site, as well as contributing positively to the UK’s balance of payments and meeting more of the UK’s continuing need for coal through high quality domestic resources.

“The UK still requires coal to meet a range of essential industrial, household and electricity generation needs.  It’s in our national interest and makes environmental sense to supply coal to the UK’s essential steel and cement manufacturers from high quality reserves in the UK rather than rely on imports from Russia the US, Columbia and Australia.  Imports of coal from Russia have increased by around 70% over the last two years and the associated greenhouse gas emissions generated by the transportation of imports alone are between five and seven times higher than transporting coal produced by Banks Mining close to our customers in the UK.  Increasing imports of coal simply ‘off-shores’ our environmental responsibilities without the significant local economic and employment opportunities and environmental enhancements that Banks mining projects like Bradley are delivering.

“The Komatsu excavator based at Shotton has surpassed our expectations in terms of mechanical availability and we are seeing similarly impressive results at Bradley.”