WORKERS at an Ashington surface mine have marked a major milestone after extracting the millionth tonne of coal from the site after only 22 months.
Twelve seams of coal, with combined thickness of over five metres, have been recovered at Potland Burn mine, between Ashington and Pegswood, with nearly two million tonnes expected to be yielded by the time coal production finishes in 2015.
The 243 hectare site has been active since July 2010 following a £6 million investment by UK COAL.
It employs 65 people, producing around 10,000 tonnes of saleable coal a week.
Site manager Peter Millar said: “This is a classic example of surface mined coal complementing output from collieries that abandoned these reserves many years ago.
“This site has been a lifeline for many working here who faced being unemployed without it.
“We were not universally welcomed by the local community but we believe we have shown we can be a good neighbour and that coal continues to thrive in a county renowned for producing it.
“Most importantly, we can celebrate reaching the million tonne milestone in a manner that has always put safety first.”
Since the start of production, 55 local projects have received a total of £199,000 from the site’s £500,000 community trust fund set up by UK COAL.
The fund is administered by members of a liaison committee of local representatives established to oversee operations.
The committee make donations from the fund to support education, sport , leisure, cultural and other worthy causes over the five year operation of the site.
Site restoration plans include the creation of a 71 hectare nature conservation area, woodlands, hedgerows, footpaths and bridleways.
Paul Milburn, a member of the liaison committee, said: “At the time of the original application by UK COAL to mine at Potland Burn I was an opponent, worried about the effects on the locality and mainly my living environment.
“UK COAL made claims and promises I felt were unsustainable. I was wrong.
“UK COAL has been a good neighbour, exactly as they claimed they would be.”