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01/07/13 16:40

Progress towards coal mine restoration

Energy Minister led discussions today at 3rd coal taskforce.

Following the conclusion of the third Scottish Coal Industry Taskforce today [Monday] the group agreed that a key priority to move forward with restoration of open coal mines is engagement and collaborative working. Collaboration with Scottish and UK government, agencies, local councils, community groups, coal operators, regulators and unions to work together and bring expertise to the table is vital for restoration success.

The taskforce also confirmed that they remain focussed on engagement with the hundreds of employees affected by the liquidation of Scottish Coal. Hargreaves, who are currently in the closing stages of negotiation with liquidators KPMG informed the taskforce that their purchase of former SRG sites will create 300 jobs in the first 3 months with an expected 500 jobs created within 12 months, these jobs will be involved in coaling and in restoration.

Following today's discussion Fergus Ewing said:

"The focus of the work of the taskforce is to bring together expertise and tackle issues head on in a pragmatic and realistic way. We heard from a number of representatives today that it is essential that experts need to be engaged with at early stage. Early engagement can mean these sites might mine again in future, be restored as heritage sites or even restored to be used for farming.

“Today the group focused on the future rather than the past and I must thank each member of the taskforce for their hard work to date. Since the last meeting of the taskforce we have made some significant developments. During the last meeting of the group we heard from the Office of Rail Regulation the proposals of increasing the freight charges to around £4. The group worked together and raised this issue with the ORR representatives and I am pleased to say that today the ORR announced that they will drop the freight charge to around £1. I would like to thank the ORR for listening to the concerns of the group.

"Ahead of the taskforce meeting I met with four employees affected by the closure of coal sites. Hearing first-hand from these men on the difficulties and challenges they have faced since the evening in April that they were made redundant. The first priority of the taskforce is to secure sustainable employment in the coal sector. One thing that came through strongly from my meeting with these men was that they want to work, and an important building block towards that goal is ensuring those affected by redundancy have transferable training certification and qualifications which reflect their highly skilled experience and professional competence. We need to support these men and ensure we do not lose the skills they have and instead harness them and do what we can to ensure the talent pool in Scotland, stays in Scotland.”