Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting NORTHERN ECHO to 80360 or email us
Durham coal firm backs SSI
HARGREAVES Services, the County Durham mining business has thrown its support behind iron and steel maker SSI.
The fuel and transport firm, which yesterday announced record profits, is one of the biggest suppliers to the Redcar plant that returned to production in April. Concerns over cashflow, caused by falling steel prices and high raw material costs, has prompted SSI to agree new payment arrangements with some of its key suppliers.
Hargreaves, which has a five year contract to provide half a million tonnes of coking coal annually to the blast furnace and will shortly begin supplying fuel for the new £35m Pulverised Coal Injection plant, has been reassured that the Thai-owned company is heading in the right direction.
"After all of the investment and effort that has been made at the site it would be a tragedy to see it fail," Gordon Banham, Hargreaves Group chief executive told The Northern Echo. "I don't see that happening at all and I am optimistic that they can look forward to better times in 2013. This has been a story that has captured the imagination of the North-East. We want to continue to be part of their dream.
"We are well aware of the challenges they are facing but we are 100 per cent behind the team at SSI and supportive of what they are doing. We meet with them on a weekly basis and they have been very open with us."
Hargreaves is keen to build closer ties with SSI and talks have started that could see the firms launch a joint mining venture in Thailand.
"I said to Win (SSI president and owner Win Viriyaprapaikit) let's get thing sorted in the North-East and then we can look at opportunities further afield," explained Mr Banham. The move is part of a wider bid by Hargreaves to grow its share of the booming Asian coal industry. It expects to sign its first deal in China, the world's largest consumer of coal, next year.
Closer to its Esh Winning home, Hargreaves is about to submit planning applications for two new surface mines in County Durham, which could create up to 70 new jobs in addition to the 800 workers it employs in this region. About 200 work at the SSI plant while its transport division includes the likes of haulage firm Imperial Tankers in Stockton.