RESTORATION works at two of Scotland’s largest abandoned surface coal mines near Muirkirk have been completed.

The former mines at Ponesk and Spireslack have been transformed over the last two years with over six million tonnes of rock and soil excavated and re-profiled.

A team of 15 predominantly local workers from Banks Mining carried out the restoration on behalf of East Ayrshire Council and the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust (SMRT).

SMRT chairman, Professor Russel Griggs, said: “We worked in partnership with Banks Mining on the Ponesk and Spireslack sites and we’re satisfied that the restoration work has been completed to a very high standard. The works have brought the sites back into community use.

“Working together, we have engaged with all of the stakeholders involved in this opencast project to find a pragmatic solution to the problems posed by the site.”

New footpaths and tracks have been created to provide improved public access to the site which now sits in sympathy with the wider landscape of the area.

Michael Keane, head of planning and economic development at East Ayrshire Council said: “We are making steady progress in terms of restoration across all of the remaining opencast sites, and the completion of work at Ponesk / Spireslack is welcome news. Given the scale of the works required to be undertaken, Banks Mining have done a commendable job in creating a landscape which over time will develop in keeping with its surroundings. Our primary objective is to ensure these sites are secured and made safe for the public to access, and this has been achieved.”

Jim Donnelly, operations director at Banks Mining, added: “Looking at the site now you’d be hard pushed to envisage how it was when we took it on.

“It has taken an extraordinary effort by our highly experienced team to take an unsightly derelict surface mine that had been an eyesore for many years and transform it into what we see today.

“We are very pleased with the results and glad our joint clients, East Ayrshire Council and SMRT, are too.”