Hargreaves putting in ‘hard work’ to keep threatened coke operation open

Coal miner Hargreaves Services said it is working hard to get the necessary contracts in place to keep its Monckton coke works open and save 125 jobs.

Last week the firm said that the 130-year-old coking plant in South Yorkshire could be closed down as early as next spring if it fails to secure the contracts to make it viable.

Yesterday Hargreaves’ finance director Iain Cockburn said: “It’s too early to speak of closure at the moment. If market prices improve, that will help us significantly.

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“Coke prices have moved down very quickly and they can move up very quickly. It’s difficult to see what’s round the corner.”

Monckton’s operating profit fell from £6.6m to £2.9m during the year ​to May ​31​.

Over this period, its​ revenues fell from £53.1m to £42.8m​,​ reflecting a significant reduction in average selling price per tonne from £217 to £198 with production volumes remaining stable at 190,000 tonnes.

Hargreaves said the drop in revenue reflected a fall in the volume of third party coke pro-ducts.

​“To keep Monckton open we need to work to secure the off take contracts that allow us to place the coke. We’ve got key contracts coming up​,” said Mr Cockburn.

“These are certainly the most difficult trading conditions in the coke market since we acquired Monckton in 2005.”

The Monckton site at Royston, near Barnsley, is the only independent coke production plant in the UK and is one of Europe’s leading producers of high-quality metallurgical coke.

Hargreaves, which recently closed Maltby deep mine in South Yorkshire with the loss of more than 500 jobs because of dangerous geological conditions, said volatile pricing has hit Mon-ckton.

Chairman Tim Ross said: “The strategy review that the board has begun will ensure the group is positioned to minimise risk and optimise shareholder value.”