Dozens of jobs at risk as operator Banks Group voices frustration at failure to secure permission to extend lifetime of coal mine
One of the England's last remaining coal mines is set to close today in County Durham, after an application from operator Banks Group to extend the lifetime of the site was turned down by the government earlier this summer.
The last coal is set to be extracted from the Bradley mine today before Banks Group focuses on landscaping and restoration of the site, putting at risk up to a dozen jobs, the mining firm announced on Friday.
It comes in addition to a separate redundancy consultation already underway for Banks Group's Brenkley Lane surface coal mine near Newcastle, where up 24 jobs are at risk. The firm warned that, with no replacement mines or life extensions currently permitted to its existing coal mines, a total of 250 jobs at the firm are at risk in the North East of England.
The Bradley mine closure leaves just one site in England - Hartington in Derbyshire - still extracting coal, although there are several operating in Scotland and Wales.
Banks Group executive director Gavin Styles said he was "hugely frustrated, angry and sad" at having to inform staff at the Bradley site of the latest redundancy process, arguing there was still "significant demand from British Industry for the coal and fireclay that they produce".
"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," Styles argued.
Meanwhile, the company is still waiting on a government decision over its proposal to develop Highthorn surface mine in Northumberland, which would be Britain's largest coal mine and the firm claims would pump £100m investment into the region. A planning application for Banks' proposed Dewley Hill surface mine to the west of Newcastle, which would see around 800,000 tonnes of coal and 400,000 tonnes of fireclay extracted each year to feed UK steel and cement manufacturing, is also set to be considered by Newcastle city council in the coming months.
However, the plans face strong opposition from environmentalists, amid concerns that developing new coal infrastructure undermines the UK's climate change obligations and its 2050 net zero emissions goal.
The UK government has already brought forward by a year its planned phase-out date for coal-fired power to 2024, and 2020 has so far seen a number of records broken for the length of time the grid has gone without using electricity generated from burning coal.
But while the market for coal-fired power across the UK, Europe and the US is struggling, heavy industry such as cement and steel remains largely reliant on coal.
Last November the government controversially gave the green light to West Cumbria Mining to build the UK's first new deep coal mine for over 30 years, despite opposition from environmentalists and local Lib Dem MP Tim Farron. The Woodhouse Colliery is set to extract and process up to 2.5 million tonnes of coal each year for the UK's steelmaking industry.
A report earlier this year by environmental think tank Green Alliance argued plans to build new coal mines were incompatible with the UK's climate obligations, and fail to take account of increasing shifts in the steel sector towards powering manufacturing using greener forms of energy. "Decarbonisation of the steel industry, and phase out of coal use, is both necessary and possible," the report argued.
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