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Industry news: September 2009

UK Coal raises new funds

UKCoal-owned Harworth Colliery, BGS©NERC

UK Coal plc has announced plans to raise £100 million from new investment by issuing new shares. The company will issue over 142 million shares at a price of 75 pence per share. UK Coal suffered a pre–tax los of £81.5 million for the first half of 2009 which a spokesman attributed to the falling price of coal, falling property prices and problems encountered at some of UK Coal’s deep coal mines. UK Coal plans to use the money to reduce debt, aid in current investment into its deep mines, and enable the redevelopment of the Harworth Colliery. It will also allow UK Coal to “take advantage of longer term opportunities in its mining and property activities”.


Legal challenge for new power station

Coal-fired power station, BGS©NERC

A planned new 1600 MW coal–fired power station to be built in Ayrshire has received a legal challenge which could prevent its construction. The Scottish Government had included the site, next to the Hunterston nuclear power plant, in its National Planning Framework to reduce dependency on nuclear power. However, campaigners claim that a sufficient consultation process was not held. According to opponents of the scheme the Scottish Government only consulted on details of the building, not the scheme itself, which could be contrary to European law.The new power station was due to replace capacity lost when the Hunterston B nuclear plant is shut down in 2016.

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Tarmac wins High Court battle over Yorkshire quarry

UK aggregate quarry, BGS©NERC

A High Court decision has rejected objections from campaigners against an extension to Nosterfield quarry in North Yorkshire. Objections had been raised against the 31 hectare, 1.1 million tonne extension to the quarry, on the basis that it would adversely impact on the environmentally sensitive site of Thornborough Henges, a mile away from the quarry. Planning for an initial 2.2 million tonne extension began in 2006 and permission was granted by North Yorkshire County Council in August 2008 for a revised smaller extension. Tarmac’s estate manager for Yorkshire commented saying “full consideration was given to the location and size of the extension in relation to the Thornborough Henges, and we have given assurances that bird management and habitat management at the extension will be carefully carried out.”

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Industry body criticises planning system

The Mineral Products Association (MPA), the trade association for aggregates, asphalt, cement, concrete, lime, mortar and silica sand, has released a statement criticising the current planning system for the minerals industry. An MPA assessment of the current ‘plan led’ system, in which mineral planning authorities publish planning documents outlining future options for mineral development, states that it is “simply not delivering”.The MPA points out that under the current guidelines local authorities should have produced a Mineral Development Framework by the end of 2007. So far 81 per cent of authorities have not done so and have not even completed the first part of the framework, the Mineral Core Strategy.The lack of up–to–date plans will negatively impact on the quarrying industry and could lead to supply shortfalls if new quarrying operations are delayed. MPA chief executive officer, Nigel Jackson, commented: “The ‘plan led’ system in England is no longer fit for purpose and has failed to deliver the certainty that was promised” and called for a review of the system to enable the minerals industry to better meet future demands. 


New cement plant opened

Cemex cement plant, BGS©NERC

Construction materials manufacturer Cemex UK Ltd opened a new cement plant in Essex, at the port of Tilbury, this month after two years of construction and £49 million of investment. The grinding and blending plant, the only one in the South East of England, can produce 1.2 million tonnes of cement per year, This will increase Cemex UK’s cement production capacity by 20 per cent.The plant incorporates new energy-saving technology, including a new design of mill which uses 20–40 per cent less energy then conventional mills. It also has access to shipping, barge and rail loading facilities decreasing the carbon footprint of the final product.

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Jail sentences for former Welsh slate directors

Welsh slate, BGS©NERC

The three former directors of Alfred McAlpine Slate Ltd have received jail sentences for their part in a £12 million fraud where the company’s sales and production figures were exaggerated.The former operations director, managing director and sales director received sentences of two and a half years, 16 months and 10 months respectively, after pleading guilty to the charges of fraudulent trading earlier this year.The fraud reduced Alfred McAlpine’s pre–tax profits in 2006 by £40 million and also caused the loss of 120 jobs. Alfred McAlpine Slate has subsequently been sold and now operates as Welsh Slate.


Cement industry exceeds environmental targets

The trade body for the cement industry, the Mineral Products Association Cement, revealed in its 2008 Performance Report that the cement industry has exceeded targets to reduce environmental impact in 11 out of 15 areas.This includes replacing 26.5 per cent of virgin fossil fuels with waste–derived products and reducing emissions of CO2, oxides of nitrogen, sulphur dioxide and dust. The report sets out actual environmental and social performance against a wide range of targets as agreed by the Environment Agency. Commenting on the results, Dr Pal Chana, Executive Director, Mineral Products Association, said “I am delighted that MPA Cement members, Cemex UK, Hanson Cement, Lafarge Cement UK and Tarmac Buxton Lime and Cement, have once again risen to the environmental challenge and beaten many of their 2010 targets two years early. This is testament to the commitment our members have to minimising the impact their operations have on local communities and the environment as a whole.”


Scotgold announces high-grade gold finds

Cononish gold mine, BGS©NERC

Additional high–grade gold mineralisation has been identified in areas adjacent to the Cononish gold resource, near Tyndrum, according to the project owners, Scotgold Ltd. The Australian–based company has announced gold mineralisation with grades up to 73.1 grams per tonne of gold from mineralised veins from interpretation of historic exploration data.The veins are directly east of the Cononish deposit, occur over 300 m in strike length, and run sub–parallel with the existing mine adit. The mineralisation was found in grab samples, trenches, diamond drilling and samples taken from the existing adit. Scotgold now plans to conduct further drilling to confirm the newly identified mineralisation and hopes to add these additional resources to the company’s existing JORC compliant resource of 154 000 ounces of gold and 580 000 ounces of silver.

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Wolf Minerals raises funds to complete feasibility study on Hemerdon tungsten project

Hemerdon open pit, BGS©NERC

Wolf Minerals Ltd, the Australian–based owners of the Hemerdon tungsten and tin project, has announced the company has successfully raised £2.1 million which will enable the completion of a bankable feasibility study on the deposit. The new investment comes from financing and financial services group Traxys and international private equity manger Resource Capital Fund and, subject to shareholder approval, a total of 9.8 million new shares will be issued. As part of the deal Wolf Minerals has also signed an agreement for Traxys Europe to market 100 per cent of the wolframite concentrates and 100 per cent of the tin concentrates at spot market prices.The Hemerdon tungsten and tin deposit, located in Devon, will be developed by open pit mining and has valid planning permission from Devon County Council until June 2021.The pit could supply four per cent of the world’s tungsten supply by 2011, according to the owners, and is the largest tungsten and tin reserve in the western world. 

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