BANKS Group is pushing forward with its bid to extract extra coal from its Shotton surface mine near Cramlington.
The Durham-based company has submitted an application to Northumberland County Council to draw an extra two million tonnes of coal from the 750-acre mine over two additional years.
It wants to extend the initial agreement to mine 3.4m tonnes of coal, 2m tonnes of shale and 750,000 tonnes of fireclay over eight years, which was granted by the Government in 2007 despite its refusal by Blyth Valley Council, opposition from the Support Cramlington Residents Against Mining action group, and 2,500 objections.
Banks has said the work would underpin the jobs of 140 on-site employees for another two years, avoid the disruption caused by setting up a new mine elsewhere, and help Britain meet its energy requirements. It said up to half of the electricity used in the UK during the winter of 2009/10 came from coal-fired power stations and that the UK imports 70% of the coal it uses.
Environment and community director Mark Dowdall said: “Renewables are part of the solution, but not the only solution. We don’t want to put all our eggs in one energy basket. I’d rather see money being spent on UK jobs and businesses than being used to import from Russia, South America and Australia.”
Banks hopes a decision will be made on the application by late this year or early 2011, and is looking to begin extracting the additional coal by 2014. The process would finish in 2016, with the site restored in 2018.
Dowdall said only 1.2% of the 4.5% of its survey respondents who were unhappy with living in the area cited surface mining. He said this “indicates that surface mining does not have a significant impact overall upon people living in the area”.
He said: “I think there was a perception in the community before we started that there would be widespread problems, but we distributed 4,270 newsletters to properties and businesses in the area and conducted a survey of over 500 people.
“We discovered our development was very low on the list of issues that people raised about living in the area.”
Cramlington North councillor Wayne Daley said objectors felt “disheartened and disaffected” by the Government’s decision to ignore widespread local opposition.
“I’d rather they were done and just got out of Cramlington. I always said once they get a foothold they’re going to stay as long as they can and it’s not good for our community and the image of Cramlington when we want to attract new jobs and infrastructure,” he said,