Confirmed: UK’s last deep coal mine at Kellingley closes next Friday

THE end of coal production at the UK’s last remaining deep coal mine, Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire, is scheduled to take place in a week’s time.

Keith Poulson and  Keith Hartshorne of the National Union of Mineworkers by Kellingley
Keith Poulson and Keith Hartshorne of the National Union of Mineworkers by Kellingley

UK Coal confirmed that the pit is set to close on December 18, bringing an end to deep coal mining in this country.

The 450 miners who work at the pit - known locally as ther Big K - will receive severance packages at 12 weeks’ of average pay.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers, told the Press Association: “It’s a sad day now that the closure date has been confirmed.

“I am sure people will argue not burning coal is better for the environment, but as far as I am concerned this is another vindictive act.”

Video: ‘Final nail in the coffin’ for Kellingley Colliery as employee buy-out failsUnion leaders had been told last month that the closure was likely just before Christmas, but today’s announcement ended hopes of a stay of execution.

Sadness, frustration and anger were the overriding feelings among miners at Kellingley today.

But, after weeks of uncertainty about when the colliery would shut, there was also a sense of relief that the workers can now get on with their lives and plan for the future.

As late as the beginning of this week, workers said they were being told the mine could potentially remain open until December 21.

Many had arranged new employment, starting the week after December 18, and were left feeling anxious and annoyed at not knowing when Kellingley would close.

So today’s announcement was met with a mixture of relief and sadness.

Nigel Kemp, a banksman at the mine and an NUM committee member, said: “The reaction is still annoyance but we are relieved now we’ve got a date to work to.

“It’s still very emotional. Every day as we get closer to the 18th, it’s getting more and more emotional every day. Next Friday is going to be very emotional.

“There’s nothing we can do now to save the mine.”

Mr Kemp, 50, said the closure would hit the miners hard - especially those who had worked in the pit all their lives.

“People like myself, around the 50-year-old mark, they haven’t known anything else, they left school and came here at 16 years old, a lot of people have transferred here from other mines, they have no transferable skills and now they have to go out and find another job,” he said.

“But they will do it because we’re made of sterner stuff up here.”

Keith Poulson, branch officer for the NUM, said earlier: “UK Coal has told us that we will close between December 11 and December 18 - depending on when we finish the coal face.

“I still think there are some lads who can’t get their heads around the fact that the pit is shutting.”

In March, the government said providing a £338m to keep both Kellingley and Thorseby open until 2018 would not be value for money.

Workers at Kellingley also shelved an employee buyout last year which would have seen the pit stay open until 2018.

UK Coal first announced proposals to close Kellingley as part of a managed closure’ plan last year.

The £20m deal, which included £4m from the government along with cash from private investors, was agreed in September.

UK Coal said at the time that the deal helped to prevent an immediate closure of the site, with gradual job losses over a 15-month period.

Miners plan to march through the streets of Knottingley on Saturday, December 19. They will leave Knottingley Town Hall at 12.30pm.

Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper said she was concerned that Kellingley Colliery’s operators may not have enough money to honour its workers redundancy payments.

Ms Cooper has written to Angela Leadsom, the minister of state for energy, and UK Coal, and has also asked the government to offer the miners more opportunities for them to retrain and gain new qualifications.