Boston born ‘King Coal’ dies aged 69

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A former Boston Grammar School student who went on to spearhead the purchase of state-owned British Coal’s mining assets has died at the age of 69.

Richard Budge, who was known as ‘King Coal’, passed away on Monday following a nine-year battle with prostate cancer.

He 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 there were just 19 deep mines in production – and Mr 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 Mr Budge was chief executive, £815 million.

In 1992, he bought the Opencast Coal and Plant Division from the family business. He bought a small deep mine in Northumberland, contracted for surface mine sites, and he rescued three further deep mines during privatisation.

The mining assets of British Coal were sold off in five packages. The core three in England bought by RJB Mining transformed overnight what was a relatively small company to the biggest independently owned coal production business in Europe.

Mr Budge quit as the company’s chief executive in the summer of 2001.

Among his contributions to the coal industry he invested his energies and much of his personal wealth in securing a future for Hatfield colliery near Doncaster with substantial reserves and the potential to pioneer carbon capture technology seen as an environmental life-line for 

He 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.

As a young man he had a passion for motor racing and drove several high-powered Chevron historic sports cars, winning races and championships and being crowned Thundersports Gold Cup winner at Oulton Park in 1983.

He was married to Ros, and was father to Grant and Kurt and a granddad of five.