TODAY marks the end of an era with the extraction of the last coal from a controversial County Durham opencast mine.

The completion of mining at the Bradley site, between Dipton and Leadgate means there will be no working mine left in England — although a handful of sites still operating in Wales and Scotland.

The ending of extraction, as required by planning conditions, comes two months after Banks Mining’s sister site at Shotton ended production.

Banks Mining says the UK coal industry has been seeking permission for more surface mines, but the Government has been refusing to make decisions. 

The firm adds an application for one at Highthorn in Northumberland is the Government’s “most delayed planning decision” and argues Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has failed to announce its verdict three years after a planning inspector said the Highthorn mine was in the national interest.

Banks Mining managing director Gavin Styles said: “As we face a recession the Government has a choice between allowing miners in Northern England to keep their jobs and upsetting XR campaigners. 

“Its cynical refusal to even announce a decision is why the British public has completely lost faith in politicians."

A surface mine in Wales is expected to close next year. A proposed deep mine in West Cumbria could open in 2025 if it clears a judicial review and maintains political support. It is intended to operate for around 40 years - by contrast surface mines typically have four year lifespans.

Banks Mining announced last week, as many as 250 jobs could be lost.
Workers at the firm’s Bradley surface mine were told up to a dozen jobs are expected to go at the site following Durham County Council’s refusal of planning permission for an extension.

The company had wanted to extract an extra 90,000 tonnes of coal for UK steel manufacturers and 20,000 tonnes of fireclay for brickmakers from an 18.5 hectare area.

Thousands of people had objected to the proposal, including environmentalists from around the world.

June Davison of the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley said: "This date was known since planning permission was granted in 2015.  

"It is not a significant date. We have another 12 months of what they call restoration and what we regard as just repairing the damage. 

"It will take decades to replace mature hedgerows and diverse habitats and we will certainly be holding Banks to account over the next 12 months."

Ms Davison added: "The mine should not have been allowed to go ahead in the first place. The writing was on the wall for coal all along. "Real miners, deep miners, appreciated the value of the countryside and I think the Covid pandemic has made us appreciate the countryside all the more. 

“We want to urge the decision makers, at a local and national level not to let this happen at Throckley and Druridge Bay."

Consultation is already underway on up to 24 job losses at Banks Mining’s Brenkley Lane surface mine near Newcastle.

And bosses warn – with no replacement mines currently permitted to replace Banks’ existing mines – a total of 250 skilled jobs in the region are at risk.