Work at the UK’s largest operational surface mine in Northumberland is six months ahead of schedule.
A dozen seams of coal are being recovered as part of a six-year project at Potland Burn near Ashington, with nearly two million tonnes expected to be yielded by the time production finishes late in 2015.
The site’s rapid progress was shown to five county and town councillors who met UK Coal’s area planning manager Peter Wood for a tour of Potland Burn and Butterwell mines near Morpeth.
The group, which included Northumberland county councilors and Ashington town councilors, visited the area alongside site manager Peter Millar.
The group heard how the operation to restore the area is now six months ahead of schedule and that work has shifted away from close by properties with land returned to green fields and trees planted up over the past three years.
Earlier this year opencast miners in the region were told to take a pension cut to save their jobs.
The firm, which has three sites in the region, faced collapse after a fire at a Midlands mine blasted a hole in plans to restructure a growing pensions blackhole.
The firm revealed in July it was expected to save 2,000 jobs after agreeing a deal with the Pension Protection Fund.
However, those who have already retired will see their pension protected, others have been told they face a 10% cut in order to make the deal workable.
Touring the site were councilors Alan Sambrook, Brian Gallacher, Paul Kelly, Vicky Brown and Louis Brown.