Kier, owner and operator of the surface coal mine, constructed the bridge in order to access the most recent extension to the site, known as Braehead Farm. Only accessible by crossing the River Nith, the area contains 1.5 million tonnes of coal, the extraction of which will secure employment for the people working on the site into the future.
Instead of simply creating a crossing point through the river, Kier has built a bridge that will help protect wildlife by allowing the continued use of the river corridor by otters and other wildlife for foraging, and by limiting the potential for pollution of the river.
Built to withstand the weight and size of coal trucks and large 300-tonne excavators, it is expected that the bridge will remain in place once mining activities are completed and will be adopted by the local authority for public use.
After declaring the new bridge officially open, Mr Ewing was guided around the Greenburn site by Kier Mining director Mark Harrington, who pointed out key aspects of the operation and the restoration of land and water courses, as well as the successful diversion of 500m of the River Nith.
The Energy Minister commented: "It is with great pleasure that I officially open Kier's newly constructed bridge at Greenburn Mine, New Cumnock. Not only does this bridge allow Kier to access some 1.5 million additional tonnes of coal but its construction has been sensitive to the River Nith's wildlife and environmental issues. Crucially, this extension offers continued employment opportunities for the workforce at Greenburn, many of whom live in the wider community here in Ayrshire.
“The Scottish Government recognises the important contribution that the coal industry – and companies like Kier – makes to Scotland, in employment and economic value. We also recognise the role that clean fossil fuel baseload generation, progressively fitted with Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS), will play in Scotland’s future energy mix as we make the transition to an increasingly low carbon generating mix.”
Mr Ewing’s visit coincided with a number of key milestones for Kier in both health & safety and coal production.
Kier Mining director Mark Harrington commented: “I am absolutely delighted to welcome the Minister of Energy to our site today, at what is an exciting time for Greenburn; we have recently reached the incredible landmark of having produced and dispatched five million tonnes of coal. This new bridge will enable us to access an additional 1.5 million tonnes, protecting the jobs of our people here and making an important contribution to the local and wider Scottish economy.
“Health & safety is of the utmost importance here at Greenburn and I’m very proud that we have celebrated three years and one million man-hours without a reportable accident this summer, as well as having been presented with a RoSPA Gold Award for occupational health & safety for the fourth consecutive year.”