It was revealed yesterday that the debt-beleaguered UK Coal is entering the final stages of negotiations to sell its Blair Farm open cast site near Oakley in Fife, with negotiations expected to end this month. It is expected that Scottish Coal will buy the mine, adding to its 9 currently active sites in Scotland.
UK Coal, based in Doncaster, is Britain’s largest coal producer, but warned it was expecting pre-tax losses for the first half of the year to rise to £94 million, despite benefiting from a rise in global coal prices. The companies first-half operating loss is expected to be around £52m compared to £37.7m last year. It made pre-tax losses of £81.5m in the first half of 2009.
Deep mine production improved dramatically in the second quarter and has met forecasts during the last six weeks. Over the full year the company predicts production of 7.6 million tonnes of coal, up by 0.6 tonnes from last year.
Scottish Coal, on the other hand, is the UK’s largest open cast producer, operating only in Scotland, with a yearly production of 4-5million tonnes from its mines across the central belt. Taking advantage of ease in planning and increased coal prices, the company is profiting greatly from coal. However, its expansion has put it at logger heads with many communities opposing its new mines.
There has been no public consultation in Fife over the change in ownership of the mine, and communities have had no say in the matter. In the same way that communities have open cast mines imposed on them, now a less popular operator with a history of mal-practice, poor health and safety records, environmental destruction and renowned for not restoring its sites is being imposed too.