Bid to save mines after Scottish Coal liquidation

Fergus Ewing will lead the meeting in Cumnock. Picture: Leon McGowran
Fergus Ewing will lead the meeting in Cumnock. Picture: Leon McGowran
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OPEN cast mines shut down after the collapse of Scottish Coal could be re-opened according to the Energy Minister speaking ahead of today’s meeting of a mining taskforce.

Fergus Ewing, who will lead the latest meeting in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, one of the areas affected by the liquidation of Scottish Coal, said there have been significant developments on job preservation and that, of the 648 people made redundant, between 300 and 500 new jobs will be replaced.

“This positive news is down to the hard work of the taskforce, the co-operation from those affected and the engagement with councils, with workers and with coal operators,” he said.

“Today’s meeting will focus on the issue of restoration, and its importance for both the environment and for job creation.”

The taskforce will meet amid growing concerns about the failure of mining companies to clean up and restore open cast mines. Scottish Coal, which collapsed earlier this year, has been criticised for failing to restore 11 mines which are now considered liabilities because the cost of restoring them is now greater than their value.

Communities in South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Fife have been left with stretches of countryside scarred by piles of rocks, “hazardous” gaping holes and abandoned machinery.

Another coal company, Aardvark, which is owned by ATH Resources, entered administration in December last year, leaving five opencast mine sites.

The energy and waste group Hargreaves is the frontrunner to buy the six operational Scottish Coal mines in East Ayrshire, Fire and South Lanarkshire but it is unclear whether a deal will also be done for another 11 sites.

Last month it emerged that a shortfall of up to £62 million had been found in the costs of restoring open cast mines in the local authority area.

Just over £27.6m is thought to be in place to pay for work estimated as high as £90m. The figures were provided by liquidators KPMG, which estimated restoration costs between £48m and £90m.

KPMG has asked the Court of Session to rescind the responsibility of Scottish Coal and Aardvark to restore their open cast mines to their former condition.

However, the Scottish Opencast Community Alliance (SOCA) has called for a moratorium on new coal development “until such time as the current issues around restoration have been fully addressed”.