Hargreaves takes over Scottish Coal, saves hundreds of jobs

AS MANY as 500 jobs will be saved and at least five mines kicked back into production after Hargreaves Services completed its acquisition of parts of collapsed Scottish Coal.
Hargreaves takes over Scottish Coal, saves hundreds of jobs Hargreaves takes over Scottish Coal, saves hundreds of jobs Hargreaves takes over Scottish Coal, saves hundreds of jobs Hargreaves takes over Scottish Coal, saves hundreds of jobs Hargreaves takes over Scottish Coal, saves hundreds of jobs

Courtesy Scottish Coal

Staff Reporter

Under the £8.4 million sale, the energy and waste giant will acquire a 30,000 acre property portfolio together with the plant and equipment owned by Scottish Coal subsidiary Castlebridge Plant and potential wind farm interests.

Scottish Coal, part of the Scottish Resources Group, owned six active coal mines before its April liquidation resulted in their closure and the loss of 600 workers.

Hargreaves will not take ownership of the five mines it is interested in due to excessive restoration liabilities but instead the five sites have been hived down into five new separate subsidiaries of Scottish Coal.

The subsidiaries will "continue to be responsible for the resolution of outstanding restoration liabilities at these sites”, Hargreaves said.

Scottish Coal’s interest in the five mines will be transferred to Hargreaves which will operate them for coal extraction and for restoration work.

“Operations to support revised mining and restoration plans will be recommenced as quickly as possible and Hargreaves expects to bring production of approximately 1 million tons online in the current financial year,” Hargreaves said in a statement.

“As and when sites become operational, Hargreaves will acquire the necessary plant and equipment.

“To support the target of one million tons of production, Hargreaves would expect to invest between £12 million and £15 million of capital.”

Any surplus after its fee has been paid will go to the Scottish Coal subsidiary and if the issue of restoration costs can be resolved, Hargreaves has an option to buy that subsidiary from the liquidators, a process it said it hoped to complete over the next 12 months.

The five mines are Broken Cross in South Lanarkshire, House of Water in East Ayrshire, St Ninian's in Fife and Damside in North Lanarkshire, while at Chalmerston in East Ayrshire a planning application is being submitted to open up new reserves.

The agreement does not include Scottish Coal’s sixth Blair House mine near Saline, Fife.

Hargreaves is also planning to bring additional sites into production. The company said the acquisition of the Scottish Coal assets provided significant additional reserves and prospect sites.

“Based on our review and diligence on coal reserves, planning status, coal quality and overburden ratios, Hargreaves estimates that the coal reserves at the [five] sites that are viable at current coal prices are in excess of 3 million tons. Reserves at other key pipeline sites are estimated to be around 12 million tons,” it said.

Hargreaves Services group finance director Iain Cockburn said: "It has taken a lot of hard work by many stakeholders to reach this agreement, given the complexities involved following the collapse of Scottish Coal and today's announcement marks a new start for coal production in Scotland, creating the opportunity for 300 much-needed mining jobs in the next three months and up to 500 as production increases.

"Today's agreement also provides wider development and regeneration opportunities to help address the legacy of unfulfilled restoration obligations.

"We will work collaboratively with our local communities, key stakeholders and regulators.

"We are committed to supporting the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust and we will encourage other industry participants to do likewise,” he added.

The restoration trust was established by the Scottish government after the collapse of Scottish Coal to address concerns raised by communities about jobs and restoration. A number of meetings have been held across the country, chaired by Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

Ewing commented that the Hargreaves deal followed a lot of hard work on behalf of both the company and the taskforce, while it could see the reemployment of some of the 600 people laid off after the collapse of Scottish Coal.

“I recently met with some of the ex-SRG employees made redundant in April this year. These are highly skilled, hard-working people who just want to get back to work, so this will be welcome news to them and their families,” he said.

"This is all positive activity and we are heading in the right direction to secure the future of this industry and the restoration of sites.

"In addition to the commitment to restore these sites, Hargreaves have indicated that they intend to invest a further £25 million in the coal industry in Scotland. This is a substantial and very welcome investment.

"In the coming months we will continue to work together to tackle the challenges of restoration, which in turn will further protect jobs in the sector."