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Friday, 29 March, 2002, 17:00 GMT
Grim future for deep coal mine
Longannet's directors announced the closure
The prospects for Scotland's last deep coal mine have been described as "horrendous" after the company was placed into liquidation.

The move was made by the directors of the firm which operates the Longannet pit in Fife.

Some 366 miners and 150 contractors have lost their jobs at the mine, which was flooded by 17 million gallons of water at the weekend.

There's no way we can operate knowing there could be another flood

Bryan Jackson
The directors of Scottish Coal (Deep Mine) - a subsidiary of Mining (Scotland) - announced that the company could no longer operate the mine following a meeting on Friday morning.

The receivers, Glasgow-based accountants PKF, have estimated that it could cost 50m to make Longannet operational again.

Partner Bryan Jackson described the pit's prospects as "horrendous" - and said that the safety problems over-rode everything.

He said: "There's a suspicion that there's another 50 million gallons of water waiting to come in on top of last Saturday's 17 million.

"Seeing a liquidator is bad enough but when there's a chance of people's lives being lost is much worse.

The pit employs about 500 people
"There's no way we can operate knowing there could be another flood."

He admitted he was "pessimistic" about the likelihood of a private buyer considering the mine without financial help from the government.

UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson said Friday was "a bitterly disappointing day for everyone who has worked to secure a long-term future for the Longannet deep mine".

He said: "There may be others who will take a different view about the possibility of re-opening it (the mine) though at present, there are no grounds for optimism on that account."

Mining Scotland chairman Ross Harper said the closure decision followed last Saturday's "catastrophic influx of water".

No guarantee

Professor Harper said Scottish Coal had recruited one of the country's top mining engineers to investigate the flooding.

The engineer said he had never witnessed such flooding in his 47 years of experience and concluded that had the outburst occurred 24 hours before it did, "numerous men would have been fatally injured".

He added that it was impossible to guarantee that there would be no repetition of the disaster at the mine, which had been in operation since the mid-1960s.

The mine has experienced a number of problems
The pit has received more than 40m in government grants over the past two years as it battled financial problems.

Mr Wilson said that he made no apology for that commitment to "the mine's enormous potential".

He said it was a "sad day" for miners who had worked so hard to make Longannet a success.

Some 500 employees and contractors work at Longannet, and it is estimated that the knock-on effect could also hit hundreds of jobs at local companies.

Dunfermline West Labour MP Rachel Squire said: "This is of very deep sorrow and regret. Many of us feel we are losing a member of our family.

"It's been part of our community for so long. Mining has been part of West Fife going back to the 11th century."

'End of an era'

Representatives of the National Union of Miners described the decision as a "devastating blow".

George Lang, 37, from Clackmannan, said it was "the end of an era".

The father-of-three, a branch chairman at the union, has worked as an inspector at Longannet for nearly 20 years.

He said: "I've got mining in my blood. My father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather were all miners.

"Now we'll have to get trained up for something else, but there's nothing round here. The paper mill shut down the other week and the glass works is laying men off."

Business correspondent Hayley Millar reoprts
"As of today more than 360 staff employees have been made redundant"
The BBC's Andrew Cassell
"Longannet has been struggling for years"
Ross Harper, chairman Mining (Scotland)
"The liquidator, from now, is in charge of the company."
BBC Scotland's Elizabeth Quigley reports
"The main concern is over what is happening at Longannet colliery"
See also:

29 Mar 02 | Scotland
Mine closure marks a turning point
27 Mar 02 | Scotland
Longannet: Survival against the odds
27 Mar 02 | Scotland
Bleak report on mine's future
26 Mar 02 | Scotland
Flood threatens mine's future
15 Nov 01 | Scotland
Mine jobs go after serious rock fall
13 Dec 00 | Scotland
Scots mine saved by 17.5m boost
24 Mar 00 | Scotland
Mine's future in doubt
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