Gates close on last deep pit at Kellingley and era of coal
BRITAIN’S last deep coalminers arrive at Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire today for their final shifts — and the end of an era.
Kellingley, one of Europe’s most modern pits, closes today and 450 miners will lose their jobs.
“The last coal will be turned tonight. It’s heartbreaking,” Kellingley National Union of Mineworkers delegate Keith Hartshorne told the Star yesterday.
He anticipated a media circus today with TV and radio crews, newspaper reporters, photographers and pundits clamouring for interviews when miners arrive for their last shift at 1.45pm, and when they leave tonight.
It was not lost on some of the miners that this was the same media that mounted an unprecedented and vicious year-long campaign of lies and propaganda against the miners and their union during the tragic 1984-5 strike against pit closures.
Kellingley’s miners still throw their anger and defiance against management — and the Tories.
Management has posted a notice at the pit-head instructing the miners to keep working and producing coal today to the bitter end.
Headlined in red, it says: “ALL EMPLOYEES. Friday 18th December 2015. Normal attendance and operations will be expected for all shifts unless otherwise instructed.”
At the bottom a miner has scrawled in response: “Fuck off we’ll go when we want.”
A poster is also circulating among Yorkshire miners and their supporters.
It depicts an angry Kellingley miner with one finger sticking upwards in defiance and carries the words: “Thanks for fuck all you Conservative bastards.”
It also bears the 1984-5 strike slogan: “Coal not dole,” and: “From Big K.”
Kellingley colliery is known as the Big K. It was the first pit in Europe to produce a million tons of coal a year. At its peak it employed more than 2,000 miners.
When the ripping machines have made their last run along
the quarter-mile-wide coalface tonight, at least 30 million tons of accessible coal reserves will be abandoned.
Yet every year, Britain imports more than 40 million tons of coal to burn in British power stations.
There is bewilderment at Kellingley and beyond at such a trade-off.
Despite the sombreness of the closure, some aspects of normality in the life of the pit community will go on today.
This afternoon, retired miners will be at the pit’s social club for their annual Christmas tea and get together, courtesy of their union.
“We didn’t want to cancel it,” said Mr Hartshorne.
Tomorrow, the closure will be marked with a march and rally.
Miners, their families and their supporters will walk proudly from Knottingley town hall to the Big K social club for speeches. The march assembles at 12.30pm.