Five local lads have won full-time roles with North East employer Banks Mining after completing plant operator apprenticeships at its Bradley surface mine.

Graeme Buckley, Liam Smith, Graeme Stott, Tommy Mayman and Damon Henderson have all successfully undertaken twelve-month training programmes at the site, which sits off the A692 between Leadgate and Dipton in County Durham and have now taken on permanent plant operator roles there.

The new recruits, who all live in and around Consett, are now qualified to operator a range of industrial machinery, including rigid and articulated dump trucks, fuel and water bowsers, and 360-degree excavators.

During their apprenticeships, they received direct training and mentoring from experienced members of the Banks Mining team and worked across a number of different roles to develop a range of skills and experience.

As part of his new role, Graeme Stott, who served in the RAF and also worked in mental health nursing before joining Banks Mining, has taken on the additional responsibility of being site safety representative for Bradley.

25 jobs are now being directly supported at Bradley, alongside others in the local supply chain.  A total of eight apprentices have completed their training at Bradley over the past two years, with a further seven currently training on other sites.

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

Jamie Drysdale, manager at the Bradley surface mine, says: “Providing employment and training opportunities for local people was always a core part of the development of the Bradley project, and is an essential undertaking for both long-standing North East businesses like ourselves and for the sustainable success of the wider regional economy.

“The five lads have all done extremely well during their apprenticeships and thoroughly deserve to be full members of our highly-skilled Bradley team.”

Banks Mining is currently waiting on a planning decision from Durham County on a small extension to its surface mining operations on land to the west of the Bradley site, which would entail extracting around 90,000 tonnes of high quality coal for supply to UK industrial customers and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay for use by regional brickmakers.

Gavin Styles, managing director at Banks Mining, adds: “The Bradley mine is part of the supply chain to the steel manufacturing industry classed as essential by the government, and we have been working closely with our customers to ensure that we continue to supply them with the coal that they need to make raw steel during these unprecedented times.

“Given the extraordinary public health and economic challenges facing both the North East and the wider country, both now and in the future, it makes greater sense than ever to meet UK industry’s continuing need for essential minerals such as coal and fireclay from UK resources, rather than continuing to increase our reliance on overseas supplies which release greater greenhouse gas emissions through their mining and transportation.

“Doing so also supports skilled northern jobs and supply chains, delivers regional environmental and conservation enhancements, and boosts the UK’s balance of payments.

“Our five new recruits are the latest of many that we’ve been able to add to our highly-skilled workforce from the communities around the Bradley site and we are committed to continuing to provide people in the North East with the chance to build long-term careers and support their families through our mining operations.”

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.