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Joan McAlpine MSP has sought reassurances from an Australian deep mining company that local people will benefit from any developments through jobs training and community benefit.
Ms McAlpine met with Gary Fietz from New Age Exploration in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday to hear more about the company’s plans to mine for coking coal in Annandale and Eskdale.
There is an estimated 112 million tonnes of high quality coking coal in the area which would be used in the making of steel which currently relies on imported supplies.
New Age Exploration told Ms McAlpine that any mining operation, should it go ahead, would employ a minimum of 200 people, half of them underground. They also said that they were actively looking at community benefit schemes.
She said:
“There are a number of issues that need to be explored with regard to New Age’s Lochinvar coking coal project, particularly in terms of environmental impact. However I was very encouraged to hear Mr Fietz say that the company was looking at a substantial community benefit. I emphasised to Mr Fietz that my support for the project was contingent on the employment of local people, particularly young people. While some of the skills required are not available in this country at present, and will need to be imported, I made it very clear that I would expect training to be put in place to skill up local people. I was very encouraged by the response. New Age have conducted an exemplary community engagement exercise. There are a number of opportunities locally and nationally which this project could bring.”
Ms McAlpine was also encouraged to learn that jobs could be created on the former MOD munitions site in Eastriggs where the coal and waste would be stored minimising the impact in more rural parts of the constituency.
Ms McAlpine has been supporting campaigners in Canonbie concerned about open cast mining and coal bed methane extraction proposed by Buccleuch Estates.
She said:
“I understand from community consultation that the impact of a deep mine on the environment will be far less intrusive than the proposed coal bed methane extraction and open cast. The deep mine will also provide a lot more jobs and I am encouraged by their commitment to community benefit.
“However my support is contingent on assurances about jobs for local people.”