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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 16 July, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Selby pit complex to close
Selby miner
A 43m compensation package is expected
More than 2,000 miners are to lose their jobs as coal production at the Selby complex in Yorkshire is phased out over the next 20 months.

UK Coal has pulled the plug on one of the biggest and most sophisticated mining operations in Europe, with complete closure earmarked for spring 2004.

The company said there was "no prospect" of the three pits making up the Selby complex becoming viable.

It blamed deteriorating geological conditions and continuing financial losses for the closure decision.


Many of the men have worked underground all their working lives and they don't know how to do anything else

Keith Franks
Nacods branch secretary

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said the closure was a "bitter blow" to the industry and more should be done to mine reserves at the complex.

Roy Vann, NUM branch secretary at Stillingfleet said: "This is a bitter blow to the morale of the miners in Selby and to the industry."

He said many of the Selby miners had worked at several other pits and were once again facing redundancy.

Thousands more jobs are also likely to go in the wider economy as a result of the decision.

The cost of the redundancy package for the 2,100 mineworkers will be 40m, 10m of which will come from the government.

Miners can expect to be offered up to a maximum of 27,000 in redundancy payments.

Production 'uneconomical'

UK Coal says the complex, which opened 20 years ago, lost 35m last year and 107m in the last three-and-a-half years.

And it would be uneconomic to continue production beyond 2004, although coal reserves remain, according to the company.

Gordon McPhie, chief executive of UK Coal said it had been apparent for some time that the Selby mines could not produce coal economically.

"We welcome the package of measures announced by government to cushion the impact of the colliery closures on the communities it affects, and to help equip employees with new skills needed to enable them to continue to play a positive role in their communities."

UK Coal also said it will discuss opportunities for some miners to transfer to other collieries.

The average age of the 2,100 staff working at the three pits in Riccall, Stillingfleet and Wistow is 45.

Selby miner
Many miners came from other areas

Around 300 miners will leave this year, there will be 500 redundancies next year and most of the remainder will leave in the first half of 2004.

A small number of workers will remain at each of the three pits after they close to recover equipment and seal off the mines.

Production will continue until the closing date and Mr McPhie said the Selby mines will produce a further 10 million tonnes of coal before they close.

Expected output for this year is 5.2 million tonnes.

Government investment

Selby's Labour MP John Grogan said there would be some "relief" at the announcement.

"The fear has been that Selby would close in the next six months, with no redundancy payments," he said.


The ripples from this will go out across Yorkshire

Geoff Gordon, Selby Chamber of Commerce

And the timescale of the complex's closure would give a "fighting chance" of redeveloping the area.

The chairman of Selby chamber of commerce, Geoff Gordon, urged the government to invest in the area around Selby.

"Finance has got to be put into the area to make sure we can generate alternative employment."

He continued: "The ripples from this will go out across Yorkshire."

Keith Franks, branch secretary of the pit deputies union, Nacods, said they wanted to know how the government would help the area and what retraining would be offered.

Decline of the coal industry
1940s: 718,000 mineworkers
1970s: 300,000 mineworkers at 230 pits
1990s: 74,000 mineworkers at 65 pits
1992: 31 pits closed with the loss of 30,000 jobs

"Many of the men have worked underground all their working lives and they don't know how to do anything else."

"It's not the same as when Thatcher closed down the mines in the 1980s, pits aren't the heart of the community any longer," he said.

"The miners come from all over the place so life will go on."

Two other pits in the Selby complex were closed in the late 1990s.

The closures will leave the UK with just 11 deep mines, employing less than 10,000 workers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Rory Cellan-Jones
"Selby was one of the biggest, most advanced mining projects in the world when it was developed in the 80s"
Steve Kemp, National Union of Mineworkers
"If the investment was in there, Selby would have survived"
Local MP, John Grogan (Labour)
"The government has decided to concentrate its subsidy on pits with a future"

Click here to go to BBC North Yorkshire
See also:

16 Jul 02 | England
16 Jul 02 | Business
16 Jul 02 | England
16 Jul 02 | Scotland
20 Jun 02 | England
23 Jan 02 | England
14 Mar 01 | Business
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