‘This is our last chance to save the pit’ - words of miner at Kellingley Colliery

Marching to save  Kellingley Colliery, Knottingley.....SH100120360g..31st January 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme
Marching to save Kellingley Colliery, Knottingley.....SH100120360g..31st January 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

“This is our last chance to save the pit.”

These were the words of miner Keith Hartshorne after hundreds of people took part in a rally and march through the streets of Knottingley on Saturday to persuade the government to keep Kellingley Colliery open.

Marching to save  Kellingley Colliery, Knottingley.....SH100120360l..31st January 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Marching to save Kellingley Colliery, Knottingley.....SH100120360l..31st January 2015 ..Picture by Simon Hulme

Pit operators UK Coal plan to close the colliery by the end of this year with the loss of 700 jobs.

But campaigners want the government to accept a current state aid bid to keep it open until the end of 2018.

Mr Hartshorne, National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) delegate at Kellingley, said: “We’re not scaremongering but there have been enough delays in attempts to save Kellingley already.

“If we don’t act now there will be no chance of saving the colliery - that is reality of the situation we now face.”

Miners were joined by supporters from across the country as well as Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper, Bolsover MP Dennis Skinner and Swansea MP Sian James.

Fellow workers from Hatfield and Thorseby collieries - which are also earmarked for closure - also showed their support and marched alongside their colleagues.

Mr Hartshorne, said: “It was a really good day and we had nothing but praise for it. It’s really good to know that we are being supported by the wider community and that argument is getting through to other people.

“It was also nice that there was loads of families there. People were telling us that they sympathise with us and that our argument makes sense.”

Around 700 campaigners marched from Knottingley Town Hall to Kellingley Miners’ Welfare Club for a rally.

Ms Cooper and Mr Skinner gave speeches in the club before a screening of the film Pride, which focuses on the 1984-85 miners’ strike.

The event was held to put pressure on the government to approve two state aid applications - which were submitted last month and would extend the life of the pit for an extra three years.

One application would see the Weeland Road site stay open until the end of 2018 and the other would provide funding for redundancy payments and the re-training of workers.

Mr Hartshorne added: “The state bids range from the cheapest option of £107m to the most expensive option which would cost £323m and it all differs on how long they want to keep the pit open.

“The truth is there is at least 30 years of reserves at Kellingley but the cost of saving the pit is going up every week because we aren’t opening up any new coal faces.”

Miners from Kellingley, Hatfield and Thoresby met government ministers on Tuesday to discuss the deal.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the NUM, said: “We have seen a managed decline of the British deep-mined coal industry even though we still rely on coal to keep the lights on. More than 30 per cent of our electricity is generated from coal, this should be British-mined coal keeping British mining jobs and skills alive, not imported.”

A government spokesman said: “We have now received a plan from the company and will look carefully at their proposal, bearing in mind that we must make sure that taxpayers receive value for money.

“When we talk about state aid we are referring to taxpayers money and not a separate pot in Brussels that we can dip into. The European Commission considers what support Member States can give to companies but does not provide the funding for that support.”