The pit's underground workers plummet down in the pit cage at high speed and much depends on the skills of winding engine men who ensure the cage stops, inch accurate, at the bottom of the shaft.
It's over six miles from the bottom of the shaft to the pit face, which miners reach by lying on a fast-moving conveyor belt.
It's a strange sensation for the unaccustomed - someone like me - feeling the rippling rollers passing swiftly down the chest, belly, groin and legs as the journey is made.
The coal is mined from a 350-metre section of the 2,400-metre long pit face.
In a line along the pit face, holding up the half-mile of rock above, are the modern pit props of today, 220 "chocks," stainless steel cylinders, electronically and hydraulically powered, marvels of engineers' skills, each costing over £1 million. They sit on miniature tank tracks and are known as Panzers.
Each chock is topped by a metal plate supporting the pit roof. After a rip of coal by a huge gouger which rotates along the face, each prop moves forward.
There's a hiss of air pressure as the chock-plate lowers. Its tank tracks move it forward. There's another hiss and a clunk as the plate is raised back to the roof.
Collectively it's like a mechanical Mexican wave along the face. The pit roof intentionally falls in behind the advancing chocks. A conveyor also moves forward.
The ripping machine gouges out a layer of coal along the face - 1,200 tons in a single rip. The din of the ripper is deafening. The dust is thick. The coal is carried off on the conveyor, and the whole operation starts again. In the midst of it all are the miners.
The seam mined is the richest and thickest in Britain. It makes Kellingley one of the most productive pits in Europe - 30 years ago it was the first to hit 1m tons production a year.
The seam is due to last until 2015, after which another will be ready for exploitation.
On one underground visit to the colliery years ago, I crouched in the middle of the pit face and saw painted on one of the gleaming steel chocks a small, perfectly drawn miniature hammer and sickle, the work of one of the miners, half a mile beneath the Earth's surface, miles along from the bottom of the shaft.
The pit first turned coal in 1965. The secretary of Kellingley branch of the National Union of Mineworkers was Jimmy Miller, a communist from the declining Scottish coalfield.
Jimmy became a legend. No-one seeking a job at Kellingley was turned away. Kellingley employed more than 2,000 workers, even men sweeping coal dust from the pit bottom - unheard of, then and now. The National Coal Board had little say in the matter.
At the age of 14 in the early 1920s Jimmy was a delegate from the Scottish Young Communist League to celebrations of the Russian revolution in Moscow.
For ever after he wore a small hammer and sickle medallion in his lapel, presented to him at the Red Square celebrations.
"I cannae remember who pinned it on ma breast - it was either Trotsky or Stalin," he told me.
When he retired he passed the medallion to his son Davey, who was elected NUM branch secretary in his place.
During the miners' strike of 1984-5 Davey made a speech with the immortal line: "The miners will eat grass before they'll go back to work."
Soon after, a battered Volvo arrived at Kellingley strike headquarters, the "Big K" social club, where 500 pickets gathered to be fed each morning before going off to Nottinghamshire. They ate a lot of beans.
In the back of the Volvo was a stag, brought by Jimmy from retirement in Scotland. It was butchered, the canteen set to work and when the pickets sat down for their evening meal Davey reminded them of his "eat grass" speech. Then he said: "And if there's no grass they'll eat venison!" and the meal was served.
The pit ran its own co-operative, complete with pit-head warehouse. Kellingley miners never bought a TV or washing machine from retailers. They bought them from their co-op, whose bulk-purchasing power halved the prices.
The miners made weekly donations from their wages to build the "Big K" social club. It housed a library, games room, lecture facilities, concert and meeting rooms.
It had a restaurant where at weekends miners and their families could enjoy steak with a nice wine - another unheard-of practice for workers in the 1960s and '70s.
"There's nothing too good for the miners" was Jimmy's ethos.
The co-operative warehouse was shut after privatisation by a vengeful owner when the Kellingley miners resisted introduction of a sixth day of production.
Today Kellingley produces 3m tons of coal a year. The NUM branch there is still strong with 500 miners working at the pit.
Working conditions are not easy. Keith Poulson is now Kellingley NUM branch secretary.
"Due to the distance we are working it's hot and humid," he says.
Another problem is one that could affect the future of the pit, despite its enormous wealth of reserves.
"The workforce is an ageing workforce - you're looking at 50-plus," says Keith.
"You can understand that working in such hot and humid conditions takes its toll. It won't be a shortage of coal that shuts Kellingley. It will be a shortage of miners because they're not coming into the industry.
"The young blood is there, but it takes investment - a lot of money to train a coal-face miner.
"You are looking at an apprenticeship of 12 months to five years. It takes 12 months to train someone to go on the face.
"Then to operate machinery safely you are looking at years of experience. You can't just take a youngster off the dole queue and make him a miner."
There's been very much a "quick-buck" approach to coal mining in Britain since privatisation. Privateers have moved in and moved out.
The Tories abandoned any semblance of a planned, long-term energy future for Britain.
Two-hundred years of North Sea gas reserves were used in 30 years to make quick profits by burning gas to make electricity - and also to defeat the miners in 1984-5.
Destruction of most of the coal industry, and abandonment of Britain's envied research into clean-coal technology, left 200 years of reachable coal reserves underground. Britain today imports 40m tons of coal a year.
Britain has also become dependent on imported gas which comes from, or travels across, some of the world's most volatile regions.
But the work of mining coal at Kellingley goes on. What doesn't change is the toll of injuries and deaths, even at a modern mine.
Since it began production 17 miners have been killed at Kellingley, the most recent only last year.
Three years ago a memorial to those men was unveiled at the pithead, and each year a commemorative event takes place. This year's ceremony was held on Thursday, when the miners of Kellingley, and their families, saluted the men who still die digging Britain's coal.
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