Future of 120-staff Barnsley coke plant thrown into doubt

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The future of the country’s last independent coke plant, near Barnsley, has been thrown into doubt by competition from China undercutting it.

Hargreaves Services, which owns the Monckton plant in Royston, says it is struggling to secure enough long-term contracts to survive.
The 130-year-old plant employs 120 people, but Hargreaves said it will need to have discussions with clients about contracts towards the end of the year.

It will then make a decision about its future ‘as soon as possible after this’, the firm said.

The plant, which supplies steel and chemical plants, is under pressure because Chinese coke suppliers are able to undercut international prices.

Hargreaves chief executive Gordon Banham also said the company is in talks to sell Rocpower, which produces standby power from biofuel.

The company said that, despite higher coal sales, it had faced a ‘challenging’ year due to volatile international markets for coal and coke and the recent high price of sterling.

Hargreaves, which was established in 1994, imports around four million tonnes of coal into the UK a year.

Last year it closed the Maltby coal mine, near Rotherham, although it still has nine surface mines, including seven in Scotland.

Maltby was one of the last working deep mines in the country and at its peak produced more than 1.2 million tonnes of coal per year and employed more than 500 people.

Shares in the firm fell six per cent after the news.