Richard Budge, the businessman who was crowned “King Coal” after he successfully spear-headed the purchase of State-owned British Coal’s mining assets in England when the industry was privatised over 20 years ago, died today (Monday) at the age of 69.
Budge was born in 1947, the year the UK coal industry, with almost a thousand deep mines and a million employees, was nationalised and became the National Coal Board. Almost half a century later when the “ultimate privatisation” was completed, there were just 19 deep mines in production – and Budge’s Doncaster-based RJB Mining Company bought all but two of them.
The three English coalfield packages embracing 17 deep mines, 30 surface mines, over 400 million tonnes of reserves and nearly 50,000 acres of land, cost RJB Mining, of which Budge was Chief Executive, £815 million. Some £700 million was paid to the government on completion on December 30, 1994, and the remaining bank acquisition debt was paid off within two years.
Budge was the driving force behind the foundation of the Confederation of UK Coal Producers, a campaign group which for the first time gave independent producers a voice in the corridors of power. It had many successes – but failed in its biggest objective: to secure government and EU investment in clean coal carbon capture and storage technology that would have enabled Britain’s most plentiful fuel to be utilised in a more environmentally acceptable way. The decision sounded the death knell for the British coal industry, and the country’s last deep mine, once owned and developed by Budge’s RJB Mining, ceased production at the end of last year.
Richard Budge was a man who lived life in the fast lane, both at work and at play. As a young man his passion for motor racing was put into practice behind the wheel of several high-powered Chevron historic sports cars, winning races and championships and being crowned Thundersports Gold Cup winner at Oulton Park in 1983.
Yet for a man with such a high profile, Budge treasured his privacy, the love of wife Ros, their sons Grant and Kurt and their five grandchildren.
A significant industry figure, Budge will be sorely missed by friends and family.