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Thursday, 6 December, 2001, 06:30 GMT
Uncertain future for oldest working mine
Coal mine
UK Coal owns 14 collieries in the United Kingdom
Miners at a Yorkshire pit are meeting their MP to ask for her help, after the discovery of geological faults at their mine.

More than 400 workers at Prince of Wales Colliery, Pontefract, could lose their jobs when coal seams run out next summer, after the discovery of two underground faults by owners UK Coal.

The discovery of the flaws means the shelving of a multi-million pound development to gain access to eight million tonnes of untapped coal reserves in an area called Wentedge.

The mine is the last working mine in the Wakefield area, is the oldest colliery still in production in the UK, and has a history dating back to the 1860s.

'Kick in teeth'

Officials from the National Union of Miners (NUM) and pit deputies union Nacod will meet Pontefract and Castleford MP Yvette Cooper on Thursday.

Nacods branch secretary at the colliery, Gary Foreman, told BBC News Online: "The company has decided to end development of Wentedge and concentrate on areas known as 136 Coalface and 138 Coalface.

"The first has nine weeks coal left, and the latter enough coal to be mined until July or August next year.

Richard Budge
UK Coal was formed after Richard Budge's departure
"It is a real kick in the teeth for workers, with the mine returning a profit every year since 1992.

"There are other areas of coal that could be mined, but it is getting into them. It could be a couple of years tunnelling before we get to the coal.

"We are getting our own geologists to look at the Wentedge area and the faults, but they can only use the surveys that UK Coal has produced.

"We will be meeting Yvette Cooper outside the pit and hope she will be able to offer us some support - she has always been good for us in the past."

The company has spent 18m over the past two years on the Wentedge project, with 5,000 metres of tunnel driven to reach the reserves.

UK Coal director of deep mines, Alec Galloway, said: "Our assessment is that if we continue mining in that area, the colliery will sustain annual losses in the order of 15m a year.

"This is a financial burden we cannot contemplate.

'Business viability'

"This is poor reward for a great deal of hard work and endeavour by everyone concerned at Prince of Wales."

He said due to the geological and economic position the company was "reviewing its mining operations at the colliery".

A company spokesman said they would also be meeting with Yvette Cooper to discuss the predicament, and the future prospects for Prince of Wales pit.

Earlier this year UK Coal, the country's biggest producer of coal warned it was examining the "viability of the deep mine business".

The firm, which owns 14 pits in the UK, declined to rule out mine closures.

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See also:

12 Sep 01 | Business
Buyer named for struggling colliery
14 Mar 01 | Business
The changing face of UK jobs
06 Mar 01 | Business
Coal firm unveils land sales
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