Five lads from the Consett area of County Durham have taken their first steps onto the career ladder after being chosen by North East employer Banks Mining for plant operator apprenticeships at its Bradley surface mine.

Graeme Buckley, Liam Smith, Graeme Stott, Damon Henderson and Tommy Mayman have all started twelve-month training programmes at the site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton in County Durham.

The five new recruits, who all live in and around Consett, are now receiving direct training and mentoring from experienced members of the Banks Mining team, and will work across a number of different roles during their apprenticeships to develop a range of workplace skills and experience of operating earthmoving plant.

Forty-one jobs are now being directly supported at the Bradley site, alongside others in the local supply chain, and Banks’ next wave of apprentices are set to start in their new roles with the Durham-headquartered firm in the near future.

More than half of those working at Bradley live within five miles of the site, with almost all living within a 15-mile radius.

The restoration of the Bradley site will include the creation of new woodland and a nature reserve area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use, while the related community benefits fund, which will provide funding for support eligible local community improvement projects and initiatives, will go live in the new year.

Jamie Drysdale, manager at the Bradley surface mine, says: “We committed to creating job opportunities for local people as part of the development of the Bradley site, and our five new apprentices are the latest of many recruits that we’ve been able to add to our highly-skilled and growing workforce from the communities around the site.

“Providing opportunities for local people to develop practical workplace skills is an essential undertaking for both long-standing North East businesses like ourselves and for the sustainable success of the wider regional economy.

“As well as providing these employment 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, a need which would otherwise have to be met through imports from Russia and the US.

“Banks Mining has been providing people in the North East with the chance to build long-term careers and support their families through our mining operations for more than four decades, and we’re looking forward to seeing the two Graemes, Liam, Damon and Tommy develop in their new roles.

“Work is progressing well at Bradley, and we remain wholly focused to operating the site in the safest, most efficient and most environmentally responsible way possible.”

Founded in Tow Law, County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has operated and restored 111 surface mines across Scotland and northern England, and alongside its Bradley workforce, it also employs around 170 people at its Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines near Cramlington in Northumberland.