The value of contracts commissioned by North East employer Banks Mining from local companies for equipment and services at its Bradley surface mine has passed the £1.5m mark.
An analysis of the contractor spend since the County Durham-headquartered firm started preparatory work at Bradley early last year has found that more than 95 per cent has so far gone to businesses and service providers based in North East England, with the closest suppliers being based in Consett, just a few miles from the site.
The contracts range across every aspect of the site’s development and operation, including communications technologies, power generation, equipment supply, IT infrastructure, construction services, landscaping and safety equipment.
The Chester-le-Street depot of generator hire business John F Hunt Power, which employs 16 people, has been awarded a multi-year contract to provide power to the Bradley site’s office accommodation and wheel wash facility, and provided a bespoke solution for the project which is significantly reducing fuel usage on site.
Graham Allen, regional sales manager at John F Hunt Power, says: “While the office’s need for power is constant, the wheel wash is only needed for specific tasks, so rather than providing a single generator that works all the time, we’ve put individual machines in place which can be put on stand by when they’re not needed.
“Much less fuel is therefore being used on site as would otherwise be the case, with carbon dioxide emissions reductions resulting as well as substantial cost savings.
“Having this sort of long-term contract with a local employer gives us a useful degree of certainty about how we can plan our business operations, and if any issues arise, we’re just down the road and can be on site very quickly to put things right.”
More than half of the 41 people currently employed by Banks Mining at Bradley live within five miles of the site, while almost all of them live within a 15-mile radius of it.
The company has also recently taken on five local apprentices who are now progressing through a 12 month training programme and working towards achieving nationally-recognised vocational qualifications.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, says: “We have a longstanding policy of choosing to work with firms based in the communities around our projects wherever possible, and we are very much living up to this promise at the Bradley site.
“The range and quality of local suppliers available to us is central to enabling our highly-skilled team to operate the site in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible, and we will continue to invest heavily in our fellow North East firms as the project progresses.”
Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, adds: “As well as providing local employment and contract opportunities, and contributing positively to the UK’s balance of payments, our North East mining sites are helping to meet the UK’s continuing need for coal for a range of essential commercial, industrial and energy generations purposes.
“Imports of coal from Russia during January to March 2018 increased by over 730,000 tonnes compared to the same period a year earlier to make up for the shortfall in UK production, which means that in that one quarter, the UK increased its reliance on imports from Russia by more than the entire production planned at the Bradley site.
“Further increasing this reliance on coal imports will offshore not only much-needed jobs and investment, but also our environmental responsibilities and will thus lead to an unnecessary increase in global greenhouse gas emissions.”
Founded in County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has so far operated and restored 111 surface mines across Scotland and northern England. Alongside its Bradley workforce, it also employs around 170 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington in Northumberland.