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The last UK deep coal mine closes – but not the end of an era for MRS

Kellingley Colliery near Pontefract – the last deep coal mine in the UK – is due to close on 18th December, marking the end of over 300 years of coal mining in the UK.

Although many companies that relied on the coal industry have also ceased production due to a shrinking customer base, Mines Rescue Service (MRS), whose headquarters are in Mansfield in Nottinghamshire, and who have six sites across the UK with one in Kellingley, have expanded and diversified to meet the needs of today’s health and safety market. What’s more, despite the mine closing, MRS are pleased to announce that their Kellingley operation is relocating to a new training centre with improved facilities, located in Knottingley, very close to junction 33 of the M62, at around Easter time next year.

MRS was originally established at the turn of the 20th century to respond to emergencies from the UK mining industry. The company was part of the National Coal Board, later British Coal Corporation until its privatisation in 1996. Since then it has been able to secure long term success by leveraging its expertise to create new revenue streams, driving these gains straight back into the company.

Whilst it still provides rescue cover for mines, only 7% of MRS’ income is generated from this, and the company has been able to develop as a tried and trusted operator over the years, branching out from underground mining into providing a comprehensive range of health and safety related products, training and services to a wide range of industries, including nuclear, aerospace, manufacturing and utilities. The company has developed its specialist skills, experience and knowledge gained from working in difficult and potentially high risk environments, and their team of qualified trainers not only provide expert training, but can impart real life scenarios of situations they have faced, to bring the learning to life.  

The company has six facilities spanning the UK, as well as a number of mobile training rigs. It employs 140 people across its various operations, and nearly 70% of operational staff are ex-mine workers. Last year the company had a turnover of £11 million and is in a confident position to double its turnover in the next five years. 

MRS’s Commercial and Operations Director, Andrew Watson, explains: “The decision was taken to diversify the skills and expertise of the company’s employees into other industrial areas. The strategy was that, as the mining industry declined, we would increase our income from these new sectors of work, bringing with it new “learning opportunities” resulting in even higher individual and team skill levels.”

“Key to all of that was the introduction of the Confined Space Regulations at about the same time.  We undertake practical, hands-on health and safety training, including fire awareness and first aid training; but the really big thing has been confined spaces training and the provision of specialist teams in high risk areas.” 

“We are planning for increasing turnover to some £20 million by 2020, achieved by further expanding the services we provide. We do not compromise on quality and intend to continue to innovate and develop our services.  We particularly target all aspects of confined space training, especially the provision of rescue cover for the high risk categorised work.  Unfortunately accidents still occur in confined space working being undertaken and awareness of the hazards still needs to be communicated better.”  

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