PRESSURE was growing on the Government last night to halt the closure of Kellingley Colliery, one of Yorkshire’s last remaining deep pit mines.
MPs, trade union officials and local residents all called on Whitehall to act to rescue the pit and the 700 jobs it provides.
UK Coal, owner of Kellingley in North Yorkshire and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, is understood to be in advanced talks with Whitehall and other key stakeholders over a funding package of between £10m and £20m to carry on operating for a further 18 months as it winds down deep-pit operations.
Jobs are also likely to go at UK Coal’s head office in Doncaster and the closures will leave employee-owned Hatfield colliery in South Yorkshire as Britain’s last remaining deep-pit mine.
Union leaders and energy experts last night branded any moves to close the pit as counterproductive, saying that coal still forms a vital part of the nation’s energy requirements and warned that closing the mine would cost more in the long-run than keeping it active.
Prime Minister David Cameron pledged that the Government would do “everything we can” to save the pit but Energy Minister Michael Fallon appeared to temper expectations in the House of Commons, saying that any plans to delay the closure of the collieries must “show good value for money”.
Energy Department officials had earlier briefed that the Government may be unable to provide direct aid owing to European Union rules on state aid, but Labour insisted the European Commission was prepared to be flexible.
TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: “There is nothing stopping the Government from applying to Europe for permission to use state aid to save Kellingley and Thoresby – and the thousands of jobs in North Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire which depend on these mines staying open.
“The Government says that any plans to delay the pit closures must ‘show good value for money’ but it will cost more to shut both mines than it will do to keep them open.”
Yvette Cooper, MP for Castleford, Pontefract and Normanton, which neighbours Kellingley, last night urged the Government not to “turn its back on the coal industry”.
The Shadow Home Secretary said: “This is about mixed energy supply for the whole country. At the moment 40 per cent of our coal comes from Russia, and a time when there is a lot of insecurity around Crimea. We want to make sure we are not dependent on imports.
“There are hundreds of jobs at stake, and also lots of businesses with contracts at Kellingley which stand to lose out. We need to make sure we don’t lose our deep coal mining industry in Britain.”
Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams, whose constituency includes the Kellingley site, said: “Kellingley has a highly skilled and experienced workforce and needs all parties to work together on a compromise to make sure this funding package to extend the life of the company goes ahead.
“For the colliery to have a chance long term it has to survive short term.”