ATH Resources went into administration in December when its principal creditor demanded repayment of outstanding debt. The company had opencast mines in Ayrshire, Fife and Dumfries and Galloway.  Scottish Coal, meanwhile, had operations in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Fife, employing around 600 people when it entered administration in April.

Weak coal markets have been cited as the cause of the two companies’ financial problems. Scottish Coal’s six mines produced around 4 million mt in 2011, while ATH’s output has been some 2 million mtpy.  Both mainly supplied the power-station market.

In mid-May, Hargreaves Surface Mining Ltd. paid £10 million for ATH’s Netherton, Duncanziemere and  Glenmuckloch operations, having already bought out £12.5 million of ATH’s debt for £5 million. The move has secured some 230 jobs. Hargreaves is also KPMG’s preferred bidder for some of Scottish Coal’s assets, with the sale expected to be finalized by late June or early July. However, it is unclear whether the deals include former operations where restoration has yet to be completed, in which case funding for the work would still have to come from the public purse.

The Hargreaves group has also been the operator of the 1 million mtpy Maltby deep mine in England’s Yorkshire coalfield, where operations ended at the end of last year following geological and safety problems. The company raised £42 million (US$63 million) in new equity in April to expand its surface-mining portfolio.