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Industry news: October 2008

Permission for Northumberland opencast coal site

UK opencast coal mining, BGS©NERC

Northumberland County Council has granted planning permission for a new opencast coal mine at Ashington in Northumberland.The mine is to be operated by UK Coal which plans to extract two million tonnes of coal from the site over a six–year period, creating around 60 new jobs.The site has been involved in a lengthy planning procedure and has received strong local opposition.The original plans were first submitted in 2005.

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Plans to work coal spoil heaps

ATH Resources Plc, which operates several opencast coal mines throughout the UK, has announced plans to wash coal from existing coal spoil heaps at the disused Langton Colliery. ATH Resources claims that improved extraction methods now mean that coal can be economically extracted from what was previously a waste product. Anti–coal campaigning group, Nottinghamshire Against New Coal, has voiced its opposition to the plans stating that more effort should be put into finding renewable alternatives.The plans are due to go before Derbyshire's Regulatory Planning and Control Committee at the end of October.

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Residents protest over opencast coal plans

UK Coal's plans to develop an opencast coal site between the villages of Measham and Swepstone in Leicestershire have come under heavy criticism from local residents and campaigning groups. Locals claim that the mine, which would extract over 1.25 million tones of coal over a five–year period, would wreck the local landscape, cause environmental damage and give rise to an unacceptable increase in road haulage. A spokesman for UK Coal responded saying coal is still a vital part of UK power supply, that the residents concerns would be addressed and that they play an important part in the planning process.

A Derbyshire opencast mine was also the victim of protests this month. Campaigners broke into a site, run by UK Coal, at Smalley near Heanor and climbed op top of excavators. UK Coal stated that a public inquiry had been held into the site and the mine had been approved by the planning process.

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Plans for new nuclear power site

UK nuclear power plant, BGS©NERC

The new owners of British Energy, the French–owned energy company EDF, has announced proposals to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinckley Point in Somerset.The new plant would replace the two existing plants, Hinckley Point A, which closed in 2000, and Hinckley Point B, with is due to be decommissioned in 2016.The plans are still in the consultation stage and EDF is currently engaging with the public via exhibitions and meetings with local residents. The new plant would be built on an 86 ha site and would generate around 1 600 megawatts. EDF estimates that planning and construction of the plant would take nine years so that a new power station could be operational by the end of 2017.

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New government department for Energy and Climate Change

A new government department has been set up to tackle issues relating to energy security and climate change.The department, known as the Department of Energy and Climate Change, will be lead by Ed Milliband, who said "the new department reflects the fact that energy policy and climate change are directly linked."Oil and Gas UK, an organisation representing the UK offshore oil and gas industry, commented saying they welcome the new department and hoped to work with it to "ensure that indigenous supplies are maximised to bring immense economic and social benefits to the nation."

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UK is world number one for offshore wind

Wind turbine, BGS©NERC

An announcement by the Prime Minister revealed that the UK now has the largest capacity for offshore wind generation in the world.The announcement came after the completion of two offshore wind farms, Lynn and Inner Dowsling, near Skegness.The UK now has enough fully constructed turbines to produce 597 megawatts, sufficient to power around 300 000 homes. The UK gets 3 giggawatts of electricity from wind power, of which offshore generation accounts for 20 per cent.The Minister of State for the Department of Energy and Climate Change, Mike O'Brien, commented "offshore wind is hugely important to help realise the Government's ambition to dramatically increase the amount of energy from renewable sources." There are currently another five offshore windfarms under construction around the UK, four of which are planned to be completed by the end of 2009.

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Job losses in construction materials sector

Construction materials, BGS©NERC

The slowdown in the construction sector and subsequent lack of demand for materials has resulted in job losses and shutdowns for both Hanson UK Plc and Cemex UK Ltd. Hanson UK has had to make redundancies in its brick-making, cement and asphalt business with several plants being mothballed. The Accrington brickworks, Lancashire, are to be mothballed with the loss of 80 jobs and the Swillington works in West Yorkshire is to be closed with another 45 jobs going. A company spokesman cited the reason for the closures as a 45 per cent fall in demand since last year. Castle Cement's Ketton works, run by Hanson UK, is also affected with a kiln and three mills being mothballed for 18 months with the loss of 35 jobs. Hanson is also cutting 20 per cent of its UK distribution jobs and closing six asphalt plants to match the fall in demand. Unless the construction sector picks up as many as 10 of their quarries are also likely to be closed. A spokesman for Hanson has said this will mainly be operations reaching the end of their lives and the around two thirds of the jobs will be lost at each site closed.

Cemex UK has announced it is cutting 500 jobs across the UK, stating that it is seeking to "reduce the company's cost structure to a level that is consistent with the decline in its markets". Further details of the proposed cuts have yet to be announced.

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Approval for expansion at Durham quarry

UK limestone quarry, BGS©NERCC

Lafarge Aggregates Ltd has been granted planning permission for a 225 acre extension to its Thrislington quarry in County Durham which has been open since 1958. A spokesman for Lafarge Aggregates commented saying "We are delighted that the planning authority has granted permission for this extension, which will ensure continued support for the UK steel and chemical industry." The approval would secure 150 jobs at the quarry which will now operate until 2040. The decision was met with disappoint from local residents, 1 300 of whom objected to the plans with concerns over damage to surrounding farmland and impact on local wildlife.

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No re-opening for Parys Mountain

Parys Mountain headworks, BGS©NERC

The owner of the Parys Mountain lead–zinc–copper deposit, Anglesey Mining Plc, has announced that the deal to sell the project has fallen through. Anglesey Mining has been in negotiations with Perth–based company Western Metals Ltd for several months with an announcement last April that Western Metals Ltd had agreed to pay £14 million for the deposit, pending a feasibility review. However, negotiations between the two companies have failed to reach an agreement. Western Metals state that "the parties have been unable to agree on commercial terms that appropriately reflect Western Metals' evaluation of the project risks".This announcement means that the planned work to bring the mine back into production will now not take place.

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BGS publishes overview of aggregates research in England

Aggregates supply in England, BGS©NERC

The management of aggregates supply in support of construction activity in England has been an important part of minerals planning policy and practice for the past 30 years. A new report published by BGS summarises the results of a series of research projects carried out in 2007 – 2008 for the Mineral Industry Research Organisation (MIRO) and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).This research assessed whether such intervention is still necessary to ensure an adequate and steady supply of construction aggregates, and to evaluate possible future options.The report is available for free download from by following this link: