The End of Deep Coal Mining


In 2013 at the time of this project, there were just three deep coal mines in production in the UK: Thoresby Colliery in north Nottinghamshire (above), Hatfield Main Colliery in South Yorkshire and Kellingley in Beal, North Yorkshire.

At the end of 2012 there were ten deep mines in operation. Five of these pits would be employing less than fifty men. Contrast this figure with that of the 1950’s when there were 1,334 deep mines in operation’ (Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2013).

‘Thoresby Colliery, originally developed in 1925 for the Bolsover Colliery Company – their ‘jewel in the crown’ was still in production in 2013. Although facing legal claims by businesses affected by subsidence which closed part of the A614 in 2012.

Harworth Colliery in Bassetlaw was ‘mothballed’ in 2006 due to geological problems. Harworth was originally sunk in 1913 by the Northern Union Mining Company. The Anglo-German operation was impounded by the British Government at the outbreak of the First World War and the German workers interned.

A landslide at Hatfield in February 2013 highlights the issue of waste tipping and the powerful impact of geological faults. The incident destroyed railway lines connecting Doncaster, Goole and Scunthorpe.

Kellingley, (‘Big K’) is a modern colliery which supplies coal to power stations between Leeds and Hull and produces high-calorific coal for household use. It is one of the most productive pits in Europe but since the year 2000 there have been some fatalities due to roof falls, highlighting the fact that deep mining of coal remains a dangerous activity. ‘In 2012, high gas prices saw coal-fired power generation increase to its highest level since 2006. Domestic output fell to an all-time-low with imports increasing by 30% to meet demand.’ (Department of Energy and Climate Change, 2013). The report ‘Energy Trends : March 2013’ suggests there is still significant demand for coal. However, the future of deep coal mining in the UK is uncertain as collieries experience operational and geological difficulties and fierce competition from foreign imports.

Postscript: Hatfield Colliery was wound up in June 2015, Thoresby Colliery closed in July 2015 followed by Kellingley Colliery in December 2015, thus ending generations of deep coal mining in the UK. The tower-winders at Harworth; a familiar landmark to traffic travelling along the A1 motorway, were finally demolished in April 2016.