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Unite the Union backs positive decision on Highthorn

Jerry Swain

Trade union calls on Secretary of State to give the go-ahead to proposed new surface mine

BRITAIN and Ireland’s biggest trade union is calling on the Government to give the go-ahead to Banks Mining’s proposed new Highthorn surface mine in Northumberland.

Unite the Union has written to the Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, to urge him to allow the company to start work on the mine near Widdrington Station.


A recent letter sent to Banks Mining on behalf of the Secretary of State suggested that the Government hopes to announce its decision no later than 7 April 2020.

And now, Jerry Swain, Unite the Union’s national officer for construction, has highlighted the Government’s recent support for the British Steel blast furnace at Scunthorpe as an indication of the importance that it places on the UK retaining the ability to manufacture its own raw steel for use in major national infrastructure projects.

In the letter, he says: ‘The UK requires around 5 to 6 million tonnes of coal, per annum, to manufacture steel, cement and for other industrial processes such as carbon-fibre production, as well as powering heritage railways, traction engines and steam pumping houses.

‘As it is, the vast majority of coal needed by the UK is already imported from Russia, Colombia, the US and Australia, and importing coal such huge distances is clearly causing more damage to the environment than using locally mined coal.

‘It is also worth noting that the UK Government has been effectively propping up the British Steel blast furnace at Scunthorpe…(which)…clearly demonstrates the importance that it places on the UK retaining the ability to manufacture its own raw steel, in order to support the building of major national infrastructure projects.

‘The UK steel industry needs its own associated indigenous supply chain, creating many more jobs in local communities, and we urge you to approve this planning application.’

Mark Dowdall, environment and community director at The Banks Group, commented: ‘We’re grateful for Unite’s support on this project, which complements the backing we’ve had from many people in the local community who understand why Highthorn ought to have been given the go ahead a long time ago.

‘At a time when ministers are quite rightly paying tribute to all those who are working tirelessly within the construction industry and producing essential construction and mineral products, it would be a real blow and somewhat perverse to see this application blocked or further delayed – if it was, the only beneficiaries would be the coal industries of Russia, the US and Australia.'



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