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Last Updated: Friday, 25 January 2008, 12:33 GMT
Miners' proud march from colliery
Wyre Davies
Wyre Davies
BBC Wales correspondent

Miners with Welsh flag
It has been an emotional day for many miners
Thirteen years ago 240 miners and their families marched proudly up Rhigos mountain at the head of the Cynon Valley and into Tower Colliery.

The men had just taken a huge gamble and ploughed their 8,000 redundancy money into a workers' buyout.

Led by charismatic Tyrone O'Sullivan, they were convinced that there were still millions of tonnes of profitable coal in the seams, despite the Coal Board's controversial decision to close the mine, along with dozens of other deep pits in the south Wales valleys.

Today the same men, visibly older but faces smiling, marched out of the pit for the last time, as Tower closed its doors.

Just as proud as the day they bought the mine, theirs is a gamble which paid off.

Just as their instincts told them, many years ago, there was indeed a lot of the "black stuff" there to be mined - plenty of it.

Miners marching
The miners marched out behind the NUM banner

"They told us it wasn't viable, that there was too much gas underground to make it worthwhile", says Kevin Williams.

The NUM lodge secretary is one of those who took the plunge and, despite the traditional financial caution of valleys folk, put his redundancy into the rescue plan.

Sadly, for Kevin and his co-workers they, and Tower, have come to the end of the road.

The seams under the mountain have been worked out and Tower must close.

For Kevin and others who've been here throughout it's clearly an emotional day.

'End of era'

Tyrone O'Sullivan has become an international celebrity since he led the buy-out.

He's met world leaders, presidents and celebrities who all wanted to hear about the workers who took on a hostile government and a massive corporation to do what they thought was right.

But celebrity is the last thing on Tyrone's mind today.

"I don't know whether to laugh or cry. That mine has been my mistress for the last 40 years. My father was killed underground, but I'm immensely proud of what we've achieved."

As Tower's miners walk out today, this is not the end of coal mining in Wales.

Indeed, many of them have got new jobs at drift or open-cast mines in the area.

But coal mining will never again employ the hundreds of thousands it used to and the closure of the last deep-mine in Wales really is the end of an era.

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