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Wednesday, December 3, 1997 Published at 12:45 GMT


Miners lobby MPs as crisis looms for coal industry
image: [ Miners fear for their job security ]
Miners fear for their job security

Hundreds of miners will be lobbying MPs at Westminster on Wednesday amid growing concern that up to 5000 mining jobs could be lost before Christmas.

The House of Commons trade and industry select committee is to hear evidence from Richard Budge, the boss of RJB Mining, Britain's largest coal company, and from unions and power generators.

The threat to the pits comes from electricity generating companies opting to burn gas instead of coal. Mr Budge has warned that 5,000 jobs are at stake.

Energy minister John Battle is to explain his action plan for protecting the industry, which aims to level the playing field between coal and other forms of electricity generation such as gas and nuclear power.

[ image: The pit closure programme five years ago led to widespread demonstrations]
The pit closure programme five years ago led to widespread demonstrations
The emergency hearing comes after warnings from several Labour MPs that the UK's mining industry faces imminent destruction unless the Government intervenes.

The Confederation of UK Coal Producers, which represents 16 companies including RJB, is also calling on the Government to help out the industry.

However it is thought highly unlikely that the Government would subsidise a private company such as RJB, particularly as its profits last year were 189 million.

In a written submission to the committee, the Confederation said that the worst outcome for the UK would be for more pits to close, only for the Government to later recognise the long term benefits of having working pits.

[ image: Michael Clapham MP]
Michael Clapham MP
Michael Clapham MP, of the Coalfield Communities Campaign, said the problems facing miners had developed since the privatisation of the electricity industry, and in particular since the 1992-3 pits closure programme which, he said, had severely undermined the coal industry.

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