It was a simple gesture but one which nonetheless reflected a community’s deep-seated pride in its miners who toiled underground to help power a nation.
The Mayor of Doncaster, Coun Ros Jones, attended Hatfield Colliery, today where she was presented with pieces of the last coal mined at the pit, bringing to an end generations of mining in South Yorkshire.
As recently as 1980 there were ten deep mines in Doncaster, employing over 17,000 men and 46 mines in South Yorkshire, employing over 49,000 men. One year short of its century Doncaster’s Hatfield Colliery is set to officially close on Monday.
Coun Jones said: “It was very poignant for me today because Hatfield was the first pit where my father started work at the age of 14.
“It was very emotional but also quite humbling to see - none of us thought back in the 1980s that we would see the full decline of the mining industry. It is the last mine in South Yorkshire with 430 employees losing their jobs.
“Today we were presented with the last coal to be mined, it will have pride of place here in the trophy cabinet within the civic building and also a bigger piece of coal that will go that will go to our museum,” she added.
Hatfield along with Kellingley, in North Yorkshire, also set to close and recently axed Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, represented the last of the UK’s deep seam mines - their demise a symbol of a move towards green energy where there is no room for coal.
Earlier this year the Government agreed to support the Hatfield Colliery Partnership Ltd with state aid of up to £20m and a further grant of £8m. However, the funding was dependent on the pit, which was taken over by an employee-owned trust in 2013, on securing new contracts and with UK power companies mostly fully stocked for this year, ministers decided the deal simply wasn’t economical.
Many of those at Hatfield say the mood changed following the General Election and the Conservative Party’s decisive victory over Labour. The colliery is in the constituency of former Labour leader Ed Miliband, who has been critical of the Government for reneging on its pre-election promise,
Tony Shaw, NUM branch secretary at Hatfield said yesterday: “It’s a very sad day for everybody especially the lads that have lost their jobs.”
He questioned whether it was wise to backfill the shafts, as he said this would make it hard to reopen if coal became viable again.
Coun Jones said the impact would be felt in the community and the closure would have a knock-on impact on the local economy and supply chain. She said the authority was committed to helping to secure well paid local jobs for those affected.
Business Minister Anna Soubry earlier said the Government had “done all it can” to help Hatfield, including a pledge of £20m in state aid and a commercial loan of £8m in January.