Expansion bid for mine

EXPANSION plans that would help to sustain 150 jobs at a Northumberland opencast site have been formally submitted.

Regional company Banks Mining has put forward a bid to mine an additional 290,000 tonnes of coal from an area west of its existing Shotton surface mine, near Blagdon.

The extension, which would be known as the Shotton Triangle, would take two years to mine from start to finish and would run concurrently with operations at the existing site.

Restoration of the entire Shotton area is scheduled to be completed by October 2019 and no extension of the time-scale is envisaged.

Banks organised a public exhibition late last year to present its plans and discuss them with local residents.

The company said there was a high degree of positive feedback.

Environment and Community Director Mark Dowdall said: “The discussions we’ve had with local people and community leaders about this project have been very encouraging, and the enduring positive impact it would have in terms of local employment, supply chain support, community funding and environmental improvements have been widely appreciated.

“The Shotton surface mine operates in a safe, responsible and efficient way and enables us to make significant, long-term contributions to both the local and regional economy, which we want to develop further.

“Coal will remain a central part of the UK’s energy mix for the foreseeable future, with production from appropriate domestic sites such as Shotton and Brenkley Lane being far more desirable than relying on imports of coal.”

He added: “We have worked successfully in this part of Northumberland for more than three decades and the Shotton Triangle scheme will help us reinforce our position as one of the county’s largest private sector employers.”

Banks has been operating the Shotton mine since 2008.

Along with the company’s nearby Brenkley Lane opencast, it is estimated to contribute about £35million a year to the regional economy and more than 200 people are employed across the two sites.

They also contribute more than £400,000 in business rates.

If approved, Banks has said the Shotton Triangle will enable it to increase the support it provides for local schemes through its Community Fund, which has distributed £700,000 to groups, environmental projects and other good causes over the last nine years.

The application has been submitted to Northumberland County Council for determination. Stannington Parish Council will decide its response at a meeting this week.