Markham Main to re-open in autumn: Coal Investments plans to create 400 jobs for south Yorkshire colliery

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The Independent Online
MARKHAM Main, the south Yorkshire colliery closed by British Coal in 1992, is to be re-opened by Coal Investments, the company run by Malcolm Edwards, former commercial director of British Coal. Mining at Markham is expected to re-start in the autumn, creating 150 jobs immediately and up to 250 in the longer term.

Coal Investments' licence to operate the pit runs for 15 years but Mr Edwards said there were enough reserves to last 50 years at the planned production rate. He added that the coal was ideally suited to the industrial and domestic markets targeted by Coal Investments which are now being supplied by 'strange mixtures' of coal imported from around the world.

'Markham Main will produce its coal from the Barnsley bed, the original classic coal of south Yorkshire,' he said. 'It has always been one of the most liked domestic and industrial coals in the country. Customers will greatly welcome the reappearance of Markham Main coal on the market.'

The re-opening of Markham will fuel criticism that British Coal has shut collieries when there are still buyers for the coal. British Coal has been tightly focused on producing coal for the electricity generators, and has been accused of neglecting other markets for its coal.

Mr Edwards has already announced plans to re-start mining at Coventry and Hem Heath, part of Trentham colliery. He said there was strong demand for the coal from industrial and domestic users.

'From what we now know, there is little doubt that once the British pits that produced coals popular in these markets get back into production, and start to offer them again at sensible prices, they will take the business back without delay,' he said.

Earlier this year Coal Investments raised pounds 11.5m through a rights issue to invest in Hem Heath and Coventry. The company is unlikely to need a further issue to finance investment in Markham Main. Coal Investments is also negotiating with British Coal to re- open Silverdale colliery at Newcastle-under-Lyme and hopes to begin mining there early next year.

British Coal has offered 28 mines where production has ceased for lease and licence to private companies, and agreement has been reached for the operation of about six. Coal Investments' rivals in acquiring pits include RJB Mining, one of the UK's largest private mining companies, and several management buyout teams.

The new operators work the mines under lease and licence from British Coal. Once British Coal is privatised - possibly by the end of the year - the mines will be operated under licence from a new state-owned Coal Authority.

(Photograph omitted)