UK Coal still in talks to save up to 2,000 jobs

UK Coal, Britain’s largest coal miner, yesterday confirmed that it was still in talks with creditors to stay solvent and save up to 2,000 jobs.

The company warned in February that a fire at its largest mine, Daw Mill, could harm the viability of the whole company unless it received outside help from Government or creditors.

According to a report in The Sunday Times yesterday, bosses at UK Coal are in talks with HM Revenue & Customs over a £2m tax bill.

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Sources told the newspaper that the company had offered to make staggered payments over 12 to 18 months to HMRC, which would enable UK Coal to keep its cashflow under control.

According to The Sunday Times, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) is believed to be ready to step in as administrator if the offer is rejected by HMRC.

Yesterday, a spokesman for PwC said the company “wouldn’t comment on this kind of speculation”.

In a statement issued last week, Kevin McCullough, chief executive for UK Coal Mine Holdings, said: “There has been some further unhelpful and inaccurate speculation.

“Our main focus has been on preserving 2,000 jobs and securing the future of UK coal mining. Our remaining mines have been performing well since the fire at Daw Mill and we continue to work closely with our employees, government, pension funds, the Pensions Regulator, suppliers and customers. We remain positive that we have an underlying profitable business.

“As with all deals of this complexity there are many moving parts but I hope we are close to securing a way forward for our remaining mines.

“There will undoubtedly be some difficult decisions as we have had to look at all possible options, but there is a good business here with 2,000 families depending on our workforce and I am confident we will be able to announce more news in the coming days.”

Yesterday, a spokesman said Mr McCullough had nothing to add to this statement.

There have been fears that a failure to strike a deal with the creditors could have a damaging financial impact on the 10,000 people in the company’s pension scheme. Their income could fall if the scheme is placed into the Pension Protection Fund.