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Last Updated: Sunday, 25 February 2007, 14:29 GMT
Historic dig at planned mine site
Archaeologists are to try to unearth some of the historic past of a planned opencast site in Northumberland.

Northumberland County Council has asked UK Coal to conduct a study of the 600-acre (243 hectares) Potland Burn site near Ashington.

UK Coal wants to extract two million tonnes of coal and 500,000 tonnes of fireclay over the next six years.

The survey will be carried out by the universities of Durham and Sheffield over a 10-week period.

Human activity

The study will involve digging about 550 shallow trial trenches up to 50 metres long and four metres wide - equivalent to 3% of the site - to determine whether evidence of any culturally important historic activity exists.

It is expected the dig will cost up to 250,000.

UK Coal's senior geologist Richard Cory said: "Whilst there are no known archaeological sites within the proposed mining area, there are crop marks which suggest a level of human activity which needs to be investigated."

The firm submitted a planning application for the Potland Burn site over a year ago, and a decision has yet to be made on whether to approve the scheme, which would create 65 jobs.

UK Coal says rising groundwater levels over the next decade will lead to the site becoming unworkable.

The company has pledged to create a nature conservation area after the site is exhausted.


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