A FAMILY-OWNED coal miner is using North-East trucks in £3.5m plans to bolster regional operations.

Banks Mining has bought six wagons from Caterpillar’s plant, in Peterlee, east Durham, to strengthen schemes across the North.

The County Durham business, part of The Banks Group, which has its headquarters in Meadowfield, near Durham City, has also acquired two JCB excavators and an earthmover, which was previously used in Canada.

Banks runs surface mines at Brenkley Lane, near Newcastle, and Shotton, Northumberland, which employ more than 200 workers.

Bosses say the equipment will support those mines and play a key role in potential future developments, which include plans to extract around 800,000 tonnes of coal at Dewley Hill, between Newcastle and Northumberland, and remove further batches at Highthorn, also in Northumberland.

Explaining its investment, Gavin Styles, Banks Mining’s executive director, said: “Coal is still a central part of the UK's energy mix.

“The coal we produce at Northumberland sustains substantial numbers of jobs, supports British industry and electricity generation, heats homes and helps provide a responsible and reliable source of coal that reduces the reliance on imports.

“We have a highly-skilled workforce and will continue to make investments wherever we see appropriate opportunities.”

Mr Styles added its UK-based equipment was secured through Finning (UK), which helped deliver the Caterpillar trucks, and the Scot JCB dealership, in Newcastle.

Robbie Bentham, Banks Mining plant director, added: “Keeping our fleet up-to-date is essential for helping our teams working on mines.

"We looked at a number of options and trialled several different types of equipment, and choosing to work with regionally-based suppliers in this way has enabled us to maximise our investment in the North-East economy.”

Last month, Banks unveiled its plans to open a surface mine at Dewley Hill, which it says would create at least 50 new posts and support another 50 existing jobs.

The firm added the development would operate for operate for three-and-a-half years.

It also hopes to set up a mine at Highthorn, with councillors expected to make a decision on that proposal later in 2016.