Restoration of Ashington opencast site relies on more mining

Operations at the Potland Burn surface mine in 2012.

Operations at the Potland Burn surface mine in 2012.

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A bid to extract extra coal from a surface mine near Ashington has been approved in the hope that it will support future restoration of the site.

Northumberland County Council’s strategic planning authority has unanimously approved an application to extract an extra 164,000 tonnes of coal and 50,000 tonnes of brickshale from a north-western extension to the existing Potland Burn opencast site.

The crux of the issue relates to UK Coal going into administration in 2013. UK CSMR was set up as a not-for-profit company to deal with the mines all over the country.

Due to the drop in the price of coal, the restoration of the site is at risk, but the extra extraction would help mitigate this.

The county council’s head of planning Karen Ledger explained that they were working closely with UK CSMR ‘so we aren’t left with a hole in the ground in Northumberland’.

Coun Gordon Castle said: “Sometimes you have to look at the consequences of turning something down.

“The consequences of refusing this are much worse as the taxpayers could end up picking up the bill.”

Coun Dougie Watkin was happy to support the proposals, but joked: “There’s an old maxim – when you’re in a hole, stop digging!”

The coal extracted would be exported from the site by rail from the existing facility, while the brickshale would be taken out by road.

The completion of coaling would be achieved by May 31 next year within the original timescale, as the operations are ahead of schedule.