Coal Investments gets licence for fourth pit

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BRITISH Coal has agreed to license Silverdale colliery in Staffordshire to Coal Investments, the private mining company run by Malcolm Edwards, former commercial director of British Coal.

Silverdale is the ninth defunct colliery to be taken over by the private sector through lease and licence. Of those, Coal Investments has obtained four.

Production at Silverdale, which employed 400 people, stopped late last year. Mr Edwards hopes to re-open the pit in the autumn with a workforce of up to 150.

The company is also interested in bidding for one or more of the five regional packages of working mines being offered for sale by the Government through the privatisation of British Coal.

Earlier this month, Coal Investments announced a joint venture with RTZ, the international mining group, to buy British Coal's consultancy and coal trading businesses. These are among the non-mining assets of British Coal being sold in advance of the privatisation of the pits. Coal Investments raised pounds 7.3m through a rights issue to pay for the acquisition and to invest in the further development of its mines.

Mr Edwards is also interested in buying Coal Products, the largest manufacturer of smokeless fuel in Britain. British Coal has received a dozen expressions of interest in Coal Products, which made an operating profit of pounds 16m last year.

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