Unions have called for an urgent meeting with Energy Minister Michael Fallon to discuss the future of Thoresby Colliery following the collapse today of the loan deal brokered by Government to oversee their managed closure next year.
Chad reported earlier today that coal firm Hargreaves Services PLC had withdrawn their interest in the deal.
UK Coal had been in negotiation with the Government and other potential investors to secure a loan of around £20m between them, but with Hargreaves now withdrawing their support, it could potentially mean the pit shuts sooner, along with Kellingley in South Yorkshire.
The TUC’s assistant general secretary Paul Nowak has written today to Michael Fallon calling for urgent talks to save the mines and the UK’s coal industry while there is still time.
The unions want the Government to ask the EU for permission to spend public funds which would not only throw both pits a last-minute lifeline but would also help secure the future of the UK coal industry for at least another four years.
A report recently commissioned by the TUC and the NUM showed that using taxpayers’ money to keep the two mines open until 2018 could actually be cheaper in the long run than letting them close now, with substantially increased tax revenue and unemployment benefit savings to be made.
The cost of state aid – estimated to be around £63-£74m – could be covered by the £86m in profits from future coal sales that would come from keeping the mines open for longer, says the joint report.
Paul Nowak said: “Hargreaves’ decision to withdraw from the commercial loan arrangement today means that the jobs at both mines could be lost altogether.
“But it doesn’t have to be this way. The Government should overcome its reluctance to ask Brussels for permission to use state aid and act now to save these highly skilled jobs and the local communities in which the miners live and work.
“Using taxpayers’ money to keep the pits open for longer would also end up saving money in the long run. It seems crazy to allow the closure of British mines when Germany and Spain are both using public funds to bolster their own domestic coal supply.
“Not only would at least 2,000 jobs be secured, it would also mean that less public money is spent on redundancy and benefits payments.”