Hargreaves Plc lurking in the background ready to move in on Scottish Coal, and already have a hand in Scottish Government “solutions”2 Comments April 25th, 2013
The dust hasn’t settled, families are still reeling from the mass redundancies, communities are still trying to work out what the future holds for the massive holes in the ground and it seems that the vultures are circling in the form of Hargreaves Services Plc.
Hargreaves are now one of the biggest coal companies in the UK. With a more varied income, spread over many industries, they have weathered the recent troubles that have besieged other coal companies slightly better, despite being forced to close their deep mine at Maltby. This year Hargreaves managed to raise £42 million specifically to move into open cast, or surface mining as they call it. Hargreaves, you may remember, bought £15 million of ATH Resources’ debt and are hoping to take over the profitable sites. On April the 19th, when referring to the acquisition of ATH they said it would “create a platform for the Group to invest in surface mining in Scotland” and that they had “also recently commenced discussions on a second major surface mining asset opportunity.” That same day Scottish Coal went bust. Newspapers for area’s affected by Scottish Coal’s liquidation have also tipped Hargreaves as a possible buyer of some of Scottish Coal’s mines (The Courier, Cumnock Chronicle).
The Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing, has been making quite a big deal about his new restoration body, or The Scottish Mines Restoration Trust Limited to give it it’s proper title. He says that this trust has been set up to restore open cast sites that the previous operators have left. Scottish Coal have simply been let off the hook, as if they would of restored the sites had they not gone bust, despite some of them sitting for over ten years after coaling finished. In fact, Fergus Ewing was planning this before Scottish Coal went into liquidation. Documents from Companies House, (available here) show that the minerals trust was incorporated as a limited company on the 16th of April, three days before Colin Cornes went to court in Edinburgh to seek liquidation of Scottish Coal. If you look closer still you will see that the only two directors of the company are none other than Iain Cockburn and Steve MacQuarrie, the Finance Director and the Secretary of, you guessed it, Hargreaves Services Plc. You can see Steve MacQuarrie here, being told what for by local residents to Hargreaves controversial proposed 500,00 tonne mine in Co Durham. Hargreaves’ own “Environmental Services Division” seem to specialise in landfill and solving waste problems. It doesn’t take too much imagination to work out what they want with some already dug holes.
What does it all mean?
It’s clear something dodgy is going on. When Fergus Ewing and Russel Griggs briefed ministers on the 18th of April they made no mention that they had set up a restoration trust two days earlier. Had they set it up? Or have Hargreaves set it up and given them an out when Scottish Coal went belly up?
Lots of print space has been dedicated to attempts by politicians and businessmen to get back to business as normal. They refer to the jobs, but what they are striving for is what there was a few months ago. What we had was a handful of rich men getting richer from the labour of others, with large areas of the central belt being carved up as sacrifice zones, all the while communities are being ignored or told they should be grateful for the small number of dangerous jobs that some people receive. When the coal’s finished they’re left with the scars. The politicians seem so desperate to go back to that, with no desire to maybe think of a better way to help these communities, some of which are the most deprived coal field areas in Scotland. Now is a chance to take stock, and let communities decide where they want to go from here. It seems that the best solution the politicians have is more of the same, rich suits from England, large greedy corporations, and no community consent. Now’s the time to push for the communities affected to have a say.