Britain's last deep coal mine closes

2015-12-18 21:52
Miner Phil Kelsey, who has worked at Kellingley Colliery for 32 years, leaves the lamp room as the last shift finishes on the final day of production. (John Giles, AP)

Miner Phil Kelsey, who has worked at Kellingley Colliery for 32 years, leaves the lamp room as the last shift finishes on the final day of production. (John Giles, AP)

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Knottingley - Britain's last remaining deep coal mine closed on Friday, with miners walking out after their final shift in a historic milestone for what was once one of the country's most important industries.

Workers in dusty orange overalls and hard hats filed out of the Kellingley Colliery in Yorkshire in northern England, which employed 450 miners to dig coal out 800m below ground.

"I thought that I would see out my career here, but it is not to be," coal mine manager Shaun McLoughlin said.

"This is a very sad day for everyone connected with the mine, but I am proud that we have done the job safely and professionally," he said.

Known as the dirtiest fossil fuel, coal has fallen out of favour as world governments look to limit emissions and switch to clean energy.

"I feel gutted, like everybody else," one miner, Tony Carter, 52, told AFP ahead of the closure.

"It's the end of an era. This week we're history - the last deep mine in England. Our country was built on coal - the industrial revolution," he said.

The British government plans to phase out the most polluting coal power stations by 2025, signalling the end for an industry that fuelled the British empire and industrial growth.

"The closure of Kellingley Colliery marks the end of an incredibly significant period in our country's social and economic history," said Philip Lawrence, the chief executive of Britain's Coal Authority.

The industry is remembered for the bitter 1980s struggle by miners to stop the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher shutting their workplaces - a deeply symbolic defeat for the unions that helped usher in the liberal British economy of today.

Like many post-industrial areas of Britain, former coal-mining regions have often struggled to adjust to Britain's new service-driven economy, leading to chronic unemployment.

Sad day

The Kellingley closure will end a vital source of income in the area around the nearby village of Knottingley, and families have been left questioning their future.

Many of the mine's employees, who will receive severance packages of 12 weeks of wages, began there at 15 and fear they may struggle to find other work.

"Some of the miners have already found alternative employment, some of the miners are going to retire, some of the miners are looking for jobs," McLoughlin told Sky.

"It's very sad, but it's the economic truth of it."

The area is surrounded by three coal-fired stations including Drax, which produces between seven and eight percent of Britain's electricity - but only Drax is set to remain operational after 2016.

Earlier this month, 195 nations sealed a landmark deal to curb greenhouse emissions and limit climate change at a United Nations conference in Paris.

Global coal consumption has declined for the first time in this century thanks largely to China's economic restructuring, but usage continues to grow in India and Southeast Asia, the IEA said on Friday.

The Paris-based International Energy Agency said in a report issued in Singapore that growth in world coal demand halted in 2014 for the first time since the 1990s.

China accounts for half of global coal usage.

Read more on:    uk  |  energy  |  environment  |  pollution

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