The Coal Crisis – 25 Years on
Ironically Friday 13th October 2017 is the anniversary of what has become known as the Coal Crisis. On 13th October 1992 Michael Hestletine, President of the Board of Trade, announced that 31 of British Coal’s 50 collieries would be closed, many within six months, some within weeks. The number of operating collieries had declined from just under 700 in 1960 to 299 by 1970 and from 219 in 1980 to 50 by September 1992. Rumours had been circulating for several weeks of impending cuts as coal stocks at collieries increased significantly. The cause of the crisis was the continuing fall in demand for coal, this time it being the coal for the Electricity Supply Industry or ESI coal which went to the coal-fired power stations. Privatisation of the electricity generating industry along with the “dash for gas” were the main causes of the crisis. Under the then plans, just 19 deep mined collieries were to remain in production in Britain. In reality the cuts were much deeper and ever some of the collieries that were part of future plans had closed by the end of 1994 when what was left of the British coalmining industry went back into the private sector. The majority of collieries than came under the ownership of RJB Mining, whose Chief Executive was Richard Budge. The scene was summed up by David McCallum, Training Officer at Annesley- Bentinck Colliery. On delivery of the special edition of Coal News with the headline “No Market for 31 Pits” and following specially convened Consultative meetings which took place every colliery in Britain, he quoted “This is without doubt the darkest day this industry has ever seen!” Effectively the end of deep mined coal in Britain now looked inevitable and a new streamlined high tech coal industry was not to be!