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1976: Duchess opens massive Selby coalfield
The Duchess of Kent has opened the first coalfield to be developed in 70 years.

The Duchess was attending an opening ceremony at the site in Selby, Yorkshire, when she took charge of a drill to mark the start of mining.

The drill at Wistow is in one of five shafts that will link to an underground development the size if the Isle of Wight.

The new development has been built at a cost of 400m and is set to employ around 4000 people.

Coal production is aimed to begin in the early 1980s and it is hoped it will be producing 10m tons a year for 40 years by 1988.

Secretary of State for Energy, Tony Benn said the project was about "restoring King Coal to his throne in this country".

"Britain can look forward to ample supplies of energy as far ahead as we can see."

The president of the National Union of Mine-workers used the opportunity to call on all miners and coalfield workers for flexibility in wage negotiations.

Britain can look forward to ample supplies of energy
Secretary of State for Energy, Tony Benn
Joe Gormley said "We have to prove that nationalisation is not a dirty word" when asking for cooperation in establishing a stable industry.

The new site is set to be more important than the North Sea oil fields, the coal seam that Selby will serve spreads for 100 miles beneath the Vale of York and will provide supplies for many years after the current North Sea field supplies have dried up.

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The drill at Wistow
It is hoped coal production will be at 10m tons a year by 1988


In Context
In 1983 Wistow was the first of the five mines to begin production

The Selby Complex was one of the largest deep coal mining projects ever undertaken in the world, providing more than 3,500 jobs at its busiest.

At its peak (1993-4), the Selby complex produced 12 million tonnes of coal a year and was the jewel in the crown of the coal industry.

The pit finally closed in October 2004 because its owners, UK Coal, said the product was uneconomical to extract.

Just 200 miners found work at other collieries since the closure was announced in July 2002.

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