Production grows at coal mining firm

THE country's biggest coal mining firm has increased production over the past year despite disruption caused by a gas leak at one of its mines.

UK Coal reported that it had extracted 7.2m tonnes in the year to December 25, a three per cent increase on the previous year.

The company originally aimed to produce 7.3m tonnes of coal in the year, but suffered a setback in November when it was forced to shut a pit in Kellingley, West Yorkshire, following reports of dangerous levels of methane.

The deep mine in Kellingley was shut between November 23 and December 15 and cost the company between 100,000 and 200,000 tonnes in lost production.

Staff at Kellingley and its other two deep mines, at Daw Mill near Coventry and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, worked extra hours over much of the Christmas period to try to make up for the shortfall.

Production at Kellingley was flat in the final quarter of 2010 but total output from on-going deep mine operations nearly doubled to 1.8m tonnes compared to 1m tonnes the previous year, thanks to strong performances from the other two deep mines.

But the 5.6m tonnes produced from deep mines in the year was slightly down on the 6m it said it aimed to achieve earlier in the year.

Its surface mines also saw a slight increase in production in the quarter, from 400,000m tonnes to 500,000m.

The Doncaster-based group said it made a small loss on property sales during the year after it exchanged contracts worth 28.5m.

UK Coal owns around 30,000 acres of agricultural land and is in the process of selling 8,000 acres of this to property developers.

UK Coal bought the English assets of British Coal for 815m in 1994 when the state-owned business was privatised.

In November, a new executive chairman was appointed to replace the chief executive and chairman amid reports of heavy debts.

Former Anglian Water chief executive Jonson Cox took over from outgoing chief executive Jon Lloyd and chairman David Jones in a bid to reduce the firm's debts, which had reportedly grown to 265m by the end of September.

Tom Dougherty.

Leeds agency’s work gets top marks from university