Coal mining may return to Staffordshire after 12 years

Bignall End site proposal Comments are being invited on the Bignall End site proposal

Coal mining could be returning to north Staffordshire for the first time in 12 years.

UK Coal will submit a planning application to Staffordshire County Council to excavate 450,000 tonnes from Bignall End.

The proposal is to operate an opencast mine for two-and-a-half years.

The company said residents may be "pleasantly surprised" by the operations, though local consultations have already met opposition.

Peter Styles, Professor in Geophysics at Keele University

The whole of north Staffordshire is underlain by huge swathes of coal.

We've got something like 35 individual seams of coal under north Staffordshire and some of them are up to 10ft (3m) thick.

David Green, the area planning manager for UK Coal, said: "The nearest one to this one is Huntington Lane in Telford.

"I genuinely think people down there have been surprised by how well controlled the site is and the fact that the impacts aren't as bad as they thought they were going to be.

"I think people will be pleasantly surprised by it."

'Listen to the people'

Councillor Ann Beech, the cabinet member for environment at Newcastle Borough Council, said she was worried the proposal was too close to residential areas and could be the start of a larger development.

Land north of Bignall End The site identified for potential opencast mining, near Bignall End

She said: "They say they're not going to move on to Great Oak but will that come eventually?

"I think the county council planning department needs to sit, take stock and listen to the people."

The first community consultation was held by UK Coal on Monday and two further events will be held later this week.

Staffordshire mining

  • Evidence of mining in Staffordshire goes back to the 13th Century
  • In 1937 Chatterley Whitfield Colliery in Stoke-on-Trent was the first pit in England to produce 1 million tonnes of coal in a year
  • UK Coal's last opencast mining operation in Staffordshire was the Bleak House site near Cannock, which operated between 1993 and 2001
  • There has been no deep coal mining in north Staffordshire since Christmas Eve 1998, when Silverdale Colliery closed

UK Coal said the area was a "good quality reserve" that could be worked in "a very environmentally acceptable way".

Opencast mining removes surface soil and rock to excavate the coal beneath the surface before the original soil and rock is replaced.

About 30% of the electricity used in the UK is generated from coal-fired power stations.

UK Coal said its proposals would create up to 60 jobs.

The company plans to apply for planning permission to mine 200 acres (0.3sqm) in April.

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