One million tonne milestone pic twoThe 150-strong team at the Shotton surface mine in South East Northumberland is celebrating after hitting a major production milestone.

For the first time in regional employer Banks Mining’s 38-year history, one million tonnes of coal has been extracted from one of its sites within the company’s financial year, which finished at the end of September.

Banks Mining has invested heavily in equipment, training and systems efficiencies at the Shotton site, which is located on the Blagdon Estate to the west of Cramlington, since work began there in 2008, and chose it as the base for its most recent intake of apprentices.

The coal taken from Shotton represents around eight per cent of the total amount mined annually across the UK, with 13 million tonnes produced from indigenous surface (9m) and deep (4m) mines in the last year, compared to the 49 million tonnes that were imported.

The Durham-headquartered family business has worked in South East Northumberland for more than three decades, and currently employs over 200 people across the Shotton and nearby Brenkley Lane mining sites.

They contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments and the local supply chain, as well as more than £400,000 in annual business rates to Northumberland County Council and Newcastle City Council through the two projects, and have enabled Banks to donate around £800,000 to local groups and good causes in Northumberland over the last decade alone through the Banks Community Fund.

The Shotton site is scheduled to remain in production until 2018, with full restoration set to be completed during the following year, and the coal produced from it in the last year was enough to meet the annual electricity consumption needs of over 417,000 homes.

Neil Cook, site manager at Shotton since the start of operations, says: “There are 150 people working at this site, and every single one of them, from the management and engineers to the plant operators, is very proud of this achievement – to extract that much coal in such a short period has been a tremendous team effort.”

Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, adds: “I am incredibly proud of the achievement made at Shotton by Neil and his team.  Everyone involved with Shotton has worked hard over the last year to improve productivity and have also done so in the right way.

“The efficiency improvements have been underpinned by a continued improvement in our health and safety performance and we have continued to meet and exceed the environmental performance standards we have at Shotton.

“The coal we produce at Shotton provides substantial numbers of jobs for local people, supports domestic industry and electricity generation, creates considerable capital for investment in community improvement projects, heats homes across our region and helps to provide a responsible and reliable source of indigenous coal that reduces the UK’s reliance on imports.

“Coal is responsible for generating around 40 per cent of the energy that we all use in homes, schools, hospitals, offices and factories, and will remain central to the UK’s energy mix for the foreseeable future, so the more that can be produced from appropriate domestic sources, the more economic, employment and environmental benefits we will accrue.

“Managing an operation of this type takes a huge amount of planning and organisation, total commitment by everyone involved to the goals we put in place and a constant awareness of how things need to evolve in order to keep everything on track.

“We regularly review the places and way in which we’re working, looking for any available operational efficiencies and making incremental changes to our systems and processes to keep on top of the job to deliver a reliable and quality product in line with our commitments to the local community and providing the safest possible working environment for the team on the ground.

“Our people are obviously the biggest factor in our success, and the investments we’ve made in improving their skills, enhancing communications systems, working with our local suppliers and providing the best available equipment for the job are paying clear dividends.”