A long-serving Northumberland surface mine manager has swapped his hard hat and hi-vis jacket for a mortarboard and gown to receive a high-level industry qualification.
Neil Cook, manager of regional employer The Banks Group’s Shotton surface mine near Cramlington, has graduated from the University of Derby with a Diploma in Quarry Technology, which is a three-year course offered by the Institute of Quarrying.
Watched by his family, Neil received his diploma alongside 40 other students at a ceremony in Derby University’s Enterprise Centre.
Neil, who is from Langley Park in County Durham, 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.
The Diploma course 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 include electrical and mechanical engineering, the safe and efficient use of explosives and mineral extraction methodologies, environmental management, business practices and problem solving.
Banks Mining has supported Neil during his course by covering his travel, accommodation and studying costs
Neil Cook says: “The subjects and ideas we covered in the classroom are proving very useful out on site, and being able to feed back what I’ve learnt to my colleagues and helping encourage new areas of best practice is benefiting our overall operation.
“Surface mining has changed a great deal since I first moved into the industry, and the environmental management standards to which we adhere today ensure we always look to work to the highest environmental standards with sensitivity for surrounding communities.
“My graduation outfit was a bit different to what I normally wear out on site, but being able to collect my diploma in front of my family and fellow students was a very enjoyable experience.”
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.
In 2014, the Durham-headquartered 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 is one of many members of the Banks Mining team to have built a successful career for themselves with us over several decades, and his attitude, commitment and high level of expertise set a great example to everyone working around him.
“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 is absolutely essential, and we’re continuing to make new training opportunities available to our team wherever it is beneficial to do so.”