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Case Studies

Bettercoal is developing case studies of coal Suppliers' experiences with the Bettercoal Assessment process to identify lessons learnt, benefits and results. The first case studies were developed in May 2016 and more case studies will be added over time.

Banks Mining

The aim of Banks Mining is to be the UK’s most successful coal mining company in terms of their ability to develop new projects and their operating standards. Founded in County Durham in 1976, Banks Mining has so far worked and fully restored 110 surface mine sites across northern England, the Midlands and Scotland. The company is currently restoring the Rusha site in West Lothian in Scotland where coal extraction was completed in 2016 and has two operational coal surface mines in Northumberland: Shotton, which started operations in 2008 and Brenkley Lane, active since 2010. Together, these two sites provide around 200 jobs and contribute around £35m to the regional economy every year through wages, investments and the local supply chain, with the coal produced being used by a range of customers for a variety of industrial, domestic and power generation purposes. Also, the two mine sites sit on 9 million tonnes of coal to be recovered.

Following the completion of the Self-Assessment Questionnaire in February 2016, the Site-Assessment took place on the 5th and the 6th of July 2016, carried out by Green Horizons Environmental Consultants Limited (GHEC). The Assessment Scope included the Shotton and Brenkley Lane surface mines. Following this process, Banks Mining became the first coal mining company in Europe that has completed the full Bettercoal assessment cycle.


Shotton Surface Mine

The coal industry in the United Kingdom operates in a highly regulated environment, where transparency and positive engagement with communities and NGOs are essential components of the planning system.

The Assessment team had a tour of the Shotton and Brenkley mine sites, held interviews with key staff members and employees as well as members of the surrounding communities living in close proximity to the operational sites. Generally, the Assessors found that Banks' corporate policies and management systems are thoroughly described in their procedures and implementable. This was reinforced by the positive community feedback from those engaged during the assessment. Although the overall performance is good, there are a few areas where improvement is possible, including formalising their grievance mechanism for external stakeholders and setting specific targets for the reduction of energy and water consumption.

Banks Mining has been very collaborative during the assessment process and Bettercoal looks forward to working with the company on further improving their ethical, social and environmental practices and performances through their participation in the Bettercoal Assessment Programme.


Brenkley Lane Surface Mine

Jim Donnelly, operations director at Banks Mining, says: “We have a highly-skilled and professional team that runs our mining sites in a safe, responsible and efficient manner, and being the first company in Europe to achieve this accreditation is a real testament to the excellence of the work that they all do.

“The robustness of our systems and processes was thoroughly tested during the Bettercoal assessment and it’s pleasing to see how well they stood up to what was a very rigorous review.

“We are continuing to make significant investments in the training and development resources available to our mining teams, and run our own bespoke modular training programme through which skills and career development opportunities can be extended and improved to the benefit of both employees and the business.

“The coal we produce at our Northumberland sites sustains substantial numbers of highly skilled jobs, supports British industry and electricity generation, creates considerable capital for investment in community improvement projects, heats homes across the UK and helps to provide a responsible and reliable source of indigenous coal that reduces domestic reliance on imports from potentially unstable overseas markets. The Northumberland coals have allowed us to develop our property portfolio and renewables portfolio.”

Download the PDF case study here.

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Canyon Coal

Established in 2006, Canyon Coal is a mid-scale coal exploration and mining company with operations and projects in the Mpumalanga and Gauteng provinces of South Africa. The company currently produces around 2.5 MT coal per year from various operations and employs over 300 people.

Following the completion of the Self-Assessment Questionnaire in May 2015, the Site-Assessment, the first Bettercoal Site-Assessment in South Africa, took place in December 2015. Three assessors from Synergy Global Consulting Ltd., a Bettercoal approved assessor, carried out Site-Assessment between the 7th-9th of December 2015 at the Hakhano Colliery in Mpumalanga and offices. The Site-Assessment included a tour of the entire mine site, visits to the offices, the sidings used to transport the coal to clients, the Bonginhlahla Centre in Middleburg and interviews with senior management, employees, union representatives, contractors and consultants, representatives from the local government and from the local community council and neighbouring farmers. 

The assessment found that Canyon Coal has a strong compliance focus: areas where there are clear legal requirements are managed well and the company invests in doing things properly. The company has a small close-knit team, the contractors are treated as part of the team and they are committed to the company. Though the area is relatively water stressed, water management was also identified as an area of good practice. As a mid-scale junior mining company, the assessors identified that Canyon Coal can benefit from further formalising its systems and procedures and local stakeholder engagement, whilst maintaining its close, quality team. 

Canyon Coal has been very collaborative in the assessment process and Bettercoal looks forward to working with the company on further improving their ethical, social and environmental practices and performances through their participation in the Bettercoal Assessment Program.

An important benefit that Canyon Coal sees is that they have been exposed to international assessments and standards, and that the advice and recommendations they received during the assessment have added value to company processes:

"The impact of mining on the environment and surrounding people cannot be ignored by companies; we are constantly made aware of the fact that we have only one Earth. As a coal mining company, we have always strived towards sustainable practices in our mining and in giving back to the communities. Canyon Coal values the additional and international perspective that can be gained from Bettercoal through the assessments and the continuous feedback and opportunities for improvement, and is proud to be able to contribute to the sustainable development of the coal industry." (Canyon Coal, May 2016)

Download the PDF case study here.

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Drummond Ltd.

Drummond Ltd. is one of Colombia's largest exporters of low ash, low sulphur thermal coal with a high calorific value, which is sought after by power generators required to meet stringent emissions criteria. The mine producers some 30 MT coal per year and has approximately 5,000 employees.

Drummond Ltd. is the first company to have completed the full cycle of the Bettercoal Assessment Program. Following completion of a Self-Assessment, ERM-CVS was appointed by Bettercoal to conduct both the Site- and Re-Assessment at Drummond's Colombian mines. The Bettercoal approach is one of engagement and continuous improvement, examining a company's management systems, behaviors, sustainability performance and impacts against the Provisions of the Bettercoal Code. Best practices are also acknowledged, such as the creation and management of the Paujili Reservoir at mine site, constructed by the company as a protected area with high biodiversity.

Following the 2014 Bettercoal Site-Assessment by ERM-CVS, Drummond agreed on a timetable for the Continuous Improvement Plan which identified a number of area which could strengthen existing processes and lead to higher levels of performance. During 2015, Drummond reported to Bettercoal on the progress and implementation of the Continuous Improvement Plan.

In November 2015, an assessment team from ERM-CVS visited Drummond Ltd. again to independently verify the improvements that were made. There was evidence of:

  • greater engagement of both employees, unions and external stakeholders on company business and sensitive issues;
  • an improved policy framework with employee training on, for example, occupational health and safety, human rights, bribery and corruption;
  • progress towards the implementation of the Voluntary Principles on Security and Human Rights;
  • improved waste and recycling management;
  • water conservation.

At the initial Site-Assessment, Bettercoal also discussed external reporting with the mine leadership. Drummond has published a GRI (G4 guidelines) Sustainability Report for 2013-2014, which is externally verified.

On their return to the mine site for the Re-Assessment, ERM-CVS commented on the commitment, progress and investment that the company had made in strengthening their management systems and corporate responsibility performance. In parallel, Drummond Ltd.'s Colombian mining operation has now obtained OHSAS 18001:2007 certification granted by Lloyd's Register (LRQA), an international certification provider and risk analysis organisation.

In line with our model of engagement and continuous improvement, Drummond Ltd. remains in the Assessment Program which is designed to be a re-enforcing loop of improvement and recognition in the coal supply chain. 

"Today's world energy market in which commodities are currently going through a down-cycle, safe, efficient and cost-effective performance is a top priority. This needs to go alongside actions that promote social and environmental sustainability, working with the communities and ensuring that any impact stemming from our operations is avoided or mitigated. An external assessment such as Bettercoal's helps companies like Drummond to continuously improve its performance. It also provides our clients with a level of assurance that we act responsibly, promoting human rights and contributing to a better standard of living in our neighbouring communities." (Drummond Ltd., May 2016)

Download the PDF case study here.

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Bettercoal Code

The Bettercoal Code sets out the ethical, social and environmental principles and provisions that members of Bettercoal expect organizations producing coal in their supply chain to align with.

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