Study of wildlife as part of mine plans

The reduced area of the proposed Highthorn surface mine scheme.
The reduced area of the proposed Highthorn surface mine scheme.

A long-term bird and wildlife survey on and around the site of a proposed new surface mine is set to draw to a close.

As part of developing its proposals for the planned Highthorn site, south-east of Widdrington and inland from Druridge Bay, Banks Mining has commissioned experts to carry out a survey of the area to quantify its use through the seasons by wildlife.

The company commissioned North East ecological consultancy Argus Ecology and environmental consultants Wardell Armstrong for the study. Banks says the survey has been ongoing since the winter of 2012, in order to provide a wide-ranging dataset that enables year-on-year comparisons to be made. While the work has focused primarily on birds, due to their predominance in the area, other forms of wildlife have been included.

The Argus Ecology team also used a new environmental DNA method to test for the presence of newts. Reports on the findings, which will include how local habitats could best be managed if Highthorn is approved, is set to be included in the planning application, expected to be submitted this year.

Kevin Honour, director at Argus Ecology, said: “The primary focus has been around geese and wading birds, which reflects priorities in the Druridge Bay area, but with many other species of fauna present in the area, we’ve also monitored their use of the areas in and around the site.”

Banks is proposing to extract up to five million tonnes of coal over an eight-to-10-year period, starting in 2016. Banks says the scheme could offer real and lasting social, economic and environmental benefits for the area and sustain jobs.