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Industry news: April 2008

Progress for coal bed methane plans

Council officers for Dumfries and Galloway have recommend approval for plans to extract coal bed methane from a site near Canonbie.The company, Greenpark Energy, wants to exploit the area for coal bed methane and has been assessing the resource by drilling boreholes since 2007 in an ongoing exploration project. Greenpark Energy says more exploration is needed before the site can be developed but there could potentially be enough gas to sustain production for between 20 and 25 years.


Refusal for Lewis wind farm

UK windfarm, BGS©NERC

Planning permission for what could have been Europe's largest onshore wind farm on the Isle of Lewis has been refused by the Scottish Government. The refusal for the 181 turbine farm was given on the grounds that the development would have a serious impact on the peat bogs of Lewis which are a Special Protection Area (SPA), an EU environmental designation. The decision has been welcomed by environmental campaigners but is a blow for both the developer, Lewis Wind Power (LWP), and for many local businesses hoping to gain from the development. A spokesman from LWP has said they are "bitterly disappointed" and the decision "represents a huge missed opportunity". Scottish Energy Minister, Jim Mather, said that "this decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles" and that the adverse impacts on the environment and wildlife in the area outweighed the benefits of the scheme.


Shutdown at nuclear power plant

UK nuclear power station, BGS©NERC

A generator coolant leak at the Torness nuclear power plant, East Lothian, has resulted in one of the two reactors at the site being shut down. The operators of the plant, British Energy, say engineers are repairing the leak but could not say how long the reactor would be out of action. This has halved the output from the power station. As a result of this incident and the closure of Hunterston B nuclear power plant in Ayrshire for inspections earlier this year, the Scottish National Party are calling for an end to nuclear power generation in Scotland in favour of green energy.

In a more positive announcement for the nuclear industry the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has announced the possibility of extending the life of the Wylfa nuclear power plant on Anglesey. The plant is due to be decommissioned in 2010 but the NDA has said it would look into the future of the plant, possibly giving it a limited extension.


Possible re–opening of Harworth colliery

Harworth colliery, BGS©NERC

UK Coal has announced it is considering re–opening Harworth colliery in Nottinghamshire later this year, with coal production starting in another three years. The move, trigged by rising coal prices, could create 400 jobs and could develop the mine into one of the biggest in Europe. UK Coal is currently studying borehole and seismic data for the colliery which closed in 2006 but may contain up to 40 million tonnes of workable coal. It is hoped that this development could take on some of the employees made redundant by the closure of Welbeck colliery, also in Nottinghamshire and owned by UK Coal, due to happen later this year as a result of depletion of reserves.

Peak District National Park Authority to appeal over High Court judgment

Derbyshire Quarry, BGS©NERC

The Peak District National Park Authority (PDNP) has decided to challenge the High Court decision to allow the continuation of quarrying at Backdale quarry, which has been inactive since early 2007. The court judgment has overturned the decision of a public inquiry last year which ruled against quarrying at Backdale.

The written report from Mr Justice Sullivan, released in early April, brands the inquiry "fundamentally flawed" and states that the quarry operators, Bleaklow Industries and MMC Minerals, suffered "manifest procedural unfairness" from the planning inspectorate. The written report states the decision to overturn the PDNP's enforcement action was based on the planning inspectorate incorrectly interpreting the 1952 planning permission for the quarry and the setting of a limestone to fluorspar extraction ratio of 2:1 to prevent excessive limestone removal. Mr Justice Sullivan stated this was "an arbitrarily set ratio for which there was no evidence".

The PDNP has removed stop notices on the operations at Backdale quarry and the neighbouring Wagers Flat operation as a result of the High Court decision. An eight day public enquiry into the Wagers Flat operation, which was set to take place in May, has also been cancelled.

PDNP deputy chair, Hilda Gaddum, said "we firmly believe we have grounds to appeal" and the PDNP will continue talks with government ministers to clarify and possibly revoke the 1952 mineral extraction permissions.

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Government cuts predictions for primary aggregate demand

UK Gravel production, BGS©NERC

A new document published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), ‘A Consultation on the Draft Revised National and Regional Guidelines for Aggregates Provision in England 2005–2020’, has significantly cut predictions for aggregate demand. Predictions for virgin aggregate demand for 2001–2016 have been cut by 7.9 per cent and overall aggregate demand by 5.2 percent. The guidelines predict that total demand for aggregates in England will be 3.8 billion tonnes from 2001–2016 with 2.8 billion tonnes from primary sources and 1 billion tonnes from alternatives. These forecasts come after the publication of the 2005 Aggregates Minerals Survey for England and Wales, published by the British Geological Survey, which showed a 11 per cent decline in primary aggregate sales since 2001.

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China clay sites on eco–town shortlist

China clay pit, BGS©NERC

Old china clay workings, owned by the company Imerys, could be utilised for homes under the Government's new eco–town scheme for low–energy, carbon–neutral developments built with recycled materials. Imerys want to build 5 000 homes around Par Docks, Bugle, Nanpean, West Carclaze, Baal and Blackpool clay pits. The proposed development has made it through to the final 15 sites being considered in the Government's eco–town scheme, only 10 of which will be built. If successful, Imerys envisages that the development will take 20 years to build and will include new schools and a new marina for Par, creating jobs and regenerating deprived areas. Local residents have voiced concern that any development will overstretch existing infrastructure. A decision on the plans is to be announced by the Government in the next six months.

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Brick clay manufacturer breaches health and safety regulations

Brick production, BGS©NERC

The world's largest brick clay manufacturer, Wienerberger Ltd, has been fined £2 000 and charged £8 516 after breaching health and safety regulations at a site in County Durham. The prosecution occurred after two of the company's employees became ill after breathing in fumes given off when cutting steel with oxy–acetylene burning equipment. The Health and Safety Executive is now warning employers about working with dangerous substances without a proper health and safety assessment.

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Parys Mountain sold

The Morris Shaft, Parys Mountain, BGS©NERC

Anglesey Mining plc, the owner of the Parys Mountain zinc–copper–lead deposit, has announced it has agreed to sell the project to Australian–based Western Metals Limited. The sale would be for £14.75 million. Western Metals has already paid a non–refundable deposit of £127 000 for rights to carry out a review of the property after which a formal agreement is expected to be signed. Western Metals has said it intends to carry out a major surface drilling programme and to further develop the site by rehabilitating the now disused Morris Shaft and conducting an underground drilling programme expected to last two years. The chief executive of Anglesey Mining, Bill Hooley, said "this offer represents good value for Anglesey Mining and its shareholders. Also it's good news for Parys Mountain, it's a move forward".

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Funds raised for Hemerdon mine

Hemerdon pit, Photo Copyright: BGS©NERC

Wolf Minerals, the owners of the Hemerdon tungsten and tin deposit, announced more positive news this month after the recent resource upgrade for the deposit. The company has successfully raised £1.42 million from its recent share placement of three million shares a price of $1 Australian dollar a share. This is enough to complete an updated bankable feasibility study which is due to be finished by the second quarter of 2009.

Source: [no longer available]