A long-serving manager at a Northumberland surface mine has swapped the coalface for the classroom to gain a high-level industry qualification.
Neil Cook, manager of regional employer The Banks Group’s Shotton surface mine near Cramlington, has been awarded the Diploma in Quarry Technology by the Institute of Quarrying after completing a three-year course run by the University of Derby, which included regular tutorials at the East Midlands institution.
The course is predominantly classroom-based with additional elements of practical work, and is designed to develop the students’ interest, knowledge, understanding and evaluation of the extractive industries in general, and the quarrying industry in particular, as well as their impact upon the natural environment.
Topics covered by the course range from electrical and mechanical engineering, the safe and efficient use of explosives and mineral extraction methodologies through to environmental management, business practices and problem solving.
Originally from Langley Park in County Durham, Neil joined the Banks Group in 1980 at the age of 20, and has since worked his way up through various roles to his present position, in which he’s responsible for the operations and well-being of a workforce of around 140 people.
Neil Cook says: “Spending so much time in a classroom environment is very different to what I’ve been used to through my career, but it’s overall been an enjoyable experience and the material we covered through the course is coming in very useful back on site in many different ways.
“Surface mining has changed a great deal since I first moved into the industry, and the environmental management standards to which we adhere ensure we always look to work to the highest environmental standards with sensitivity for surrounding communities, which is something that the diploma course has a very clear and specific focus.
“Having Banks Mining’s support in covering my travel, accommodation and studying costs, as well as the study time I needed to spend away from Shotton, has been invaluable, and being able to feed back what I’ve learnt to my colleagues and encourage new areas of best practice will be a central part of repaying the investment they’ve made in me.”
Family-owned Banks Mining employs more than 200 people at the Shotton and nearby Brenkley Lane surface mines, and its local operations contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments, business rates and the local supply chain.
Last year, the Durham-based firm developed and introduced its own bespoke modular training programme to provide a framework through which skills and career development opportunities can be extended and improved to the benefit of both over 200 operational employees and the wider business.
Gavin Styles, executive director at Banks Mining, adds: “Neil has made a real commitment to gaining this high-level qualification, and his dedication sets a great example to everyone working around him.
“We’ve directed a great deal of resources and time to ensuring that our team has the up-to-date skills and knowledge required to carry out their roles as safely, responsibly and efficiently as possible, and will continue to make new training opportunities available to our team wherever it would be beneficial to do so.”