Drilling is under way at a proposed opencast site as part of geological investigations.
Banks Mining has appointed Allied Exploration and Geotechnics to drill a series of small boreholes, up to 30m deep, at different locations south east of Widdrington Village.
Material will be removed for analysis to help shape plans for the proposed Highthorn surface mine between Widdrington and Druridge Bay.
Meanwhile, a Support Highthorn group has attracted 740 likes on Facebook, and an associated online petition in favour of the mine has secured 137 signatures.
The group was started by “two ladies passionate about the industry and giving it a voice”, and states that the mine would create jobs, apprenticeships, community funding and a restoration programme.
Earlier this month, the Herald reported that a Save Druridge group had been set up to fight the opencast plans, and a total of 3,333 people have now signed its petition against them.
Banks has recently started a series of community workshops to enable local residents to influence the project’s design and a planning application is expected to be submitted later this year.
If approved, the mine would open next year and restoration would be finished within eight to 10 years.
Banks Environment and Community Director Mark Dowdall said: “Work on the design of this scheme is progressing well.”
The petitions can be found at http://committees.northumberland.gov.uk/elps/home