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Industry news: December 2008

Developments at Wylfa power plant

UK Nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

Npower, the owners of the Wylfa nuclear power plant on Anglesey, which is due to be decommissioned in 2010, has announced it has secured a connection to the National Grid for a potential new nuclear power plant. Npower has stated it is looking to develop new nuclear power plants in line with the goals of UK energy policy but will consult local residents before making any more plans. Currently Wylfa employs 800 people and it is hoped that a new generation of nuclear power stations on Anglesey will secure these jobs.


Record production for Midlands coal mine

Colliery headworks, BGS©NERC

UK Coal Plc, owner of the Daw Mill Colliery, between Tamworth and Nuneaton, has announced that Daw Mill is on target to record the highest annual output for any colliery in Britain. Three million tonnes of coal have already been produced in 2008 meaning the colliery should easily meet its target of 3.25 million tones for the year, beating the previous record for annual production of 3.16 million tonnes held by the Wistow Mine in Selby. Daw Mill principally provides fuel for the Ratcliffe power station, operated by E.ON, and employs around 680 staff.

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Tarmac granted extension at Swinden Quarry

Swinden quarry, BGS©NERC

The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority has granted approval for Tarmac Ltd to extend its rail–linked limestone quarry at Swinden, near Skipton. The approval means that an extra 24 million tonnes of limestone can be extracted from new workings that are already within the original planning boundary. The extensions will prolong the life of the quarry for a further 10 years, until 2030, and give security to the 110 employees at the site.

As a condition of the approval, Tarmac will now close the nearby Threshfield Quarry over the next two years, aiming to fully restore the quarry by 2011. Tarmac's northern estates and geology manager, Rob Moore, commented "We are delighted to have been granted this approval at Swinden. It's a flagship site for us and a major asset for Tarmac. We're committed to the site operation and have made significant investments for its future, including state–of–the–art processing equipment, transport links and after–care funding."

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Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund supporting water freight for the London Olympics

Aggregate barge loading facility, BGS©NERC

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has granted £2 million, sourced from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF), to support environmentally friendly water freight in London.The money will go towards development of new locks and infrastructure which will provide a water freight route for 350–tonne barges along the River Lee Navigation, which flows around the planned Olympic Park in east London.The project will cost a total of £20 million and will comprise a 62–metre by eight–metre tidal lock and twin water-control gates.This will provide a link between Stratford and the River Thames for construction traffic, helping the construction of the Olympic site to meet its target of delivering 50 per cent of materials by sustainable means.

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Ennstone in financial difficulties

The international quarry company Ennstone has announced it is considering business and asset sales to try to clear some of its mounting debts. Ennstone Plc, which owns UK companies Ennstone Johnston and Ennstone Thistle, is now £200 million in debt and saw its share price drop from 35p to 0.34p during 2008. The Company is currently trying to renegotiate its position with its debt providers and are hoping cash from asset sales will provide sufficient time to agree a restructuring of Ennstone's banking facilities or to find the necessary alternative financing.

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Blow for Aggregates Levy in European court case

Aggregates, BGS©NERC

The 2006 decision by the Court of First Instance that the Aggregates Levy was lawful and did not constitute state aid has been overturned by the European Court of Justice, which has sent the case back to the Court of First Instance to reconsider.This decision is in line with a decision earlier this year by Advocate General Mengozzi of the European Court of Justice that the original court decision should be quashed.

The Director of the British Aggregates Association, Robert Duward said "It is noteworthy that the European Court of Justice has agreed with the BAA on every fundamental point. This makes it very unlikely that the Levy will survive in its present form." The European Court of Justice concluded that sectors which cause the same environmental damage must be treated the same and the Court of First Instance needs to review the Commissions decision, that the Aggregates Levy does not constitute state aid, more thoroughly.


Final closure for Lochaline

UK silica sand operations, BGS©NERC

After sustaining heavy financial losses the Tarmac–owned silica sand mine at Lochaline, near Fort William, is set to close. Tarmac first announced its intentions to sell or close the site in 2007, the only mine to work silica sand in the UK, and has now announced the closure after no buyers were found. Eleven jobs are to be lost causing concern about the impact on the small local community. A spokesman for Tarmac commented saying "We've made it clear from the outset that Tarmac could not continue to sustain such losses. It's not a decision we've taken lightly and we did everything we could to avoid making our employees redundant."

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Job losses for Rio Tinto

UK–based mining giant Rio Tinto has announced it is cutting 14 000 jobs in an effort to reduce cost and pay off some of its $40 billion debt and, according to a company statement, in response to "the unprecedented rapidity and severity of the global economic downturn". Only two per cent of Rio Tinto's employees are based in the UK and UK job losses should be modest. The company has announced it is shutting one of its London offices but this might not necessarily lead to job cuts. The Rio Tinto subsidiary Anglesey Aluminium has announced they are not expecting any major job losses, although they are shedding jobs though natural wastage and always seeking cost improvements.

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