UK Coal says turnaround on track as it overhauls safety

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BRITAIN’S biggest coal miner UK Coal said recent trading has been in line with its expectations and it is making progress with its three-year turnaround plan.

The Doncaster-based group has been overhauling safety standards in recent weeks following the death of miner Gerry Gibson at its Kellingley deep mine near Knottingley in September.

UK Coal said its investigation into the tragedy is nearing completion and a Critical Safety Impact Review is examining all conditions and working behaviour, with findings already being implemented.

“The fatal accident at Kellingley on 27 September 2011 was a stark reminder of the importance of our safety improvement plan,” said the group.

UK Coal, which is burdened by a heavy but shrinking debt load, said it is pushing through changes to pensions and employment terms to cut costs.

In September it agreed significant changes to its final salary pension schemes with trade unions and the schemes’ trustees. This will halve the service cost of the two schemes and future accrual will be reviewed each year in line with affordability.

“Changes to working practices and the restraint of labour costs are critical to the recovery of UK Coal,” said the group.

It added plans to change terms and conditions of employment have been rejected by members of the UDM and NUM.

It has agreed with the NUM to enter a conciliation process “to bring this matter to a close in the over-riding interest of the viability of UK Coal”. It wants the UDM to agree to the same process.

UK Coal said total production in its third quarter was 1.8m tonnes, down on the 2.2m tonnes mined a year earlier, and giving year-to-date production of 5.9m tonnes, in line with its expectations.

Net bank debt continued to fall and stood at £68m on September 24 versus £141m at the end of December.