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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 August 2007, 07:45 GMT 08:45 UK
First coal taken from drift mine
Workers with piece of coal at mine
Full production at the mine will begin next year
The first coal in a decade has emerged from a reopened drift mine in the Neath Valley in south Wales.

The Unity mine at Cwmgwrach, has been closed since 1998, but is estimated to have reserves of up to 90 million tonnes.

Around 120 jobs should be created at the site by early next year.

The mine's owners said that it will be capable of producing up to one million tonnes of coal a year for the next 25 years.

Chairman Gerwyn Williams said: "The mine is capable of producing about a million tonnes of coal a year.

Market conditions

"There are transport conditions to consider but that's what we're aiming for - for about a million tonnes a year for about 20 to 25 years."

The drift mine - one that men can walk into rather than being transported in a lift - is the first to be opened in Wales since Betws colliery in Ammanford in 1974.

The rising amount of imported coal, coupled with global price increases and demand makes formerly uneconomic sites commercial again.

Mr Williams said coal had risen by about 40 to 50% over the last six years

Unity Mine
Full production at the mine will begin next year

"Extraction is expensive but given market conditions currently - globally that is and they are mainly due to the increases in the economy of China and India - then coal prices worldwide have increased," he said.

On Wednesday Unity Mining will bring to the surface the first of what is called development coal which must be extracted so that further engineering work can take place.

It is hoped full industrial production will begin in early 2008.

But Mr Williams warned they may have to look overseas in the short term to find miners to work there because of a "generation" gap in skilled miners with the run down of the coal industry in the UK.

He said recruiting in Poland would be a "short tem fix, not a long term answer".

Unity also have four other mine sites in south Wales under development.

The only deep mine still operating in the once thriving south Wales coalfield is Tower Colliery at Hirwaun and that is to close next year because its reserves have been exhausted.

Up to a million tonnes of coal a year will be mined

Can Britain go back to coal?
19 Oct 04 |  Magazine
Can the UK coal industry survive?
04 Mar 04 |  Business

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