An employee buyout is on the table at one of England’s last remaining deep coal mines, Kellingley Colliery. Owners UK Coal plan to close the pit, which employs over 700 people, by December 2015.
Co-ownership Solutions, which supports employee-owned businesses and workers’ co-ops, has joined the National Union of Mineworkers, the National Association of Colliery Overmen, Deputies and Shotfirers and the British Association of Colliery Managers to work up a five-year business plan, which would be executed by the workforce.
UK Coal is in support of employee ownership at Kellingley. Along with the colliery’s management team it is feeding information to the steering group, which is currently considering the economic viablity of the pit.
Norman Watson of Co-ownership Solutions, who managed a worker buyout at Tower Colliery in South Wales in 1995, is chairing the steering group. “We’re putting together a plan to keep the colliery open for another five years,” he said. “We know it has at least another five years of coal in it without having to go into more heavy expenditure.”
But the situation at Kellingley is different from the buyout at Tower. “Tower was for sale and the miners had already been made redundant. It was easy to raise the money from the miners because they already had their redundancy money. That’s not the case here.”
Mr Watson added there was general support from the miners, as well as cross-party support from local MPs and councillors. “If Kellingley closed it would have a big effect on the area,” he said. “If it goes forward it would give the miners at least five more years employment.”
The government has agreed to loan UK Coal, which is close to insolvency, £10m to execute managed closure of both Kellingley and Thoresby Colliery in Nottinghamshire, its two deep mines. The Trades Union Congress and the NUM say the move will cost the government £75m in lost income tax and unemployment benefit payments. They say it is in the public interest to keep both pits open and have urged the government to apply for European Union state aid, with a view to keeping the pits open until at least 2018.
If the two sites close, employee-owned Hatfield colliery in South Yorkshire would become Britain’s last remaining deep mine.