Civil engineers called in at proposed surface mine site

A borehole being drilled at Banks Mining's proposed Highthorn opencast site.
A borehole being drilled at Banks Mining's proposed Highthorn opencast site.

A series of geological investigations into the physical make-up of the site of a proposed new surface mine in Northumberland has started.

North East civil engineering company Allied Exploration & Geotechnics Ltd (AEG) has been called in by Banks Mining to drill a series of small diameter boreholes at different locations on the Highthorn site, to the south east of Widdrington, from which undisturbed samples of material can be removed for analysis.

The samples taken from the boreholes, which will go down to a depth of up to 30metres, will be analysed in a laboratory, with the results being fed into the surface mine design work that Banks is currently undertaking for the project. Work is expected to last until around the end of January.

The scheme has split opinion in and around the area, with groups set up to both support and oppose the scheme.

Objectors say the plans would cause massive environmental destruction next to Druridge Bay, one of the county’s most beautiful beaches.

However, those in support say it would lead to local jobs, apprenticeships and community funding.

Banks recently submitted a scoping report to Northumberland County Council and the company says that the document reflected changes made to its outline ideas for Highthorn in light of its initial talks with the community.

These changes include the time between the proposed start of operations in 2016 to the completion of restoration being reduced from 13 years to between eight and 10 years, and the removal of 114 hectares to the east of Widdrington village from the study area being considered for the scheme.

If approved, Banks says that the scheme would help to sustain significant numbers of local jobs and would also help facilitate real and lasting social, economic and environmental benefits for the communities in the surrounding area.

A community workshop takes place on Monday, February 9, at Widdrington Community Centre, from 6.30pm to 8.30pm.