Sunderland’s mining industry could be revived

The last shift at Wearmouth Colliery in December 1993
The last shift at Wearmouth Colliery in December 1993
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NEW technology could bring back Sunderland’s mining industry.

Research by one of the country’s top experts has revealed that there are tons of untapped coal reserves.

At Sunderland University today, Professor Paul Younger, director of the Newcastle Institute for Research on Sustainability, was delivering this year’s Lord Lawson Lecture on how technology could allow us to tap into a wealth of fuel left untouched for decades.

Professor Younger is a hydrogeologist and environmental engineer with experience in the science and engineering of sustainable systems in the water, regeneration, construction, mining and energy sectors.

He said: “Around 75 per cent of the coal in the North East is still underground, even though we have been mining it on an industrial scale longer than anyone else in the world.

“Previously a lot of this coal was too deep for conventional mining, or too far off shore. Even today this resource this could never be exploited by conventional means, but the technology to harness that resource has now become cost-effective.

“But new techniques of underground coal classification, coupled with carbon capture storage, offers the opportunity to use some of the energy in the coal without damaging the environment.”

Professor Younger said the “emergent technology” has already been used successfully in Australia, but was originally invented in County Durham in 1912.

He said: “But as time has gone on, drilling and capture technology has become more advanced.

“Unlike other forms of mining, such as strip mining, there is no real impact on the environment. It’s simply a matter of drilling small bore holes, and most of the tar and ash and dirt associated with traditional coal mining remains below the ground where it belongs.

“As resources shrink we will become very grateful that we have this massive resource in the North East. In my opinion we need to start exploiting it now.”

Prof Younger was giving the lecture “Coal Exploitation in the North East: The Past We Inherit, the Future We Build” at Sunderland University’s Priestman Building today.

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