THORESBY LATEST:Race to save pit jobs

Thorsby Colliery.
Thorsby Colliery.

Union bosses have launched an urgent cash plea to save jobs at the threatened Thoresby colliery, claiming millions can still be made from the pit if a suitable investor is found in time.

Last week Chad exclusively broke the shock news that the mine has been earmarked to close by the autumn of next year, and supporters are now rallying to convince potential backers that taking on the doomed colliery will not only save 600 jobs, but make them money in return.

Since it was announced that UK Coal intended to wind operations down, the Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) has been busy crunching numbers and has calculated that £65 million worth of coal is waiting to be mined in the next, untouched coalface with start-up costs of just £19 million.

With more than 1.4 million tonnes of coal that can be extracted, the UDM says it could keep the workers in a job for another four years at least.

However, if it fails to attract investment, UK Coal will finish mining the current coalface and abandon the rest.

UK Coal blamed the strength of the pound against the dollar and global coal prices for their decision, after announcing they needed millions of pounds just to stay afloat.

More than £20 million is needed to keep the pit open until next year, with hopes the Government will stump up half that sum.

If that fails, there are fears the pit will close within weeks.

General secretary for the UDM, Mick Stevens, says it’s now a race against time to find a company willing to invest, but is adamant the figures are favourable.

He added: “The facts are simple, it’s going to cost £20 million to shut it, £19 million to get it running with £65 million revenue.

“The key to profit is always about the dollar.

“It will take £19 million to get it fitted up and start producing, and if the dollar price stayed like it was now, it would still be in profit.

“For that investment, they could be looking at a £65 million return easily.

“This pit is profitable, and if the price of the dollar falls, they could be looking at even more, maybe £80 million worth of coal.”

Chad exclusively revealed on Wednesday that Thoresby, along with Kellingley colliery in South Yorkshire, was earmarked for closure.

More than 200 jobs could be lost at Thoresby in the coming weeks, with the rest set to go if the pit closes next year.

The workers at Thoresby Colliery have been praised of their efforts and have not only met targets, but exceeded them. Chancellor George Osborne visited the site in November, promising workers they still had a future in the industry.

Mr Stevens described the situation as ‘Margaret Thatcher all over again’ and is pinning his hopes on outside investment, although he suggested some firms were keeping a close eye on the situation.

“There are some companies I’m sure who are waiting for UK Coal to go ‘bang’ and pick it up for a knock-down rate.

“There are two or three companies I think waiting to do that. They want it for cheaper.

“I think the main thing about Thoresby is that the workers there have a magnificent track record. Everybody talks about how hard working they are and it’s true. You have to look at the standard of the men.

“We need for someone to step in and I know enough to say there’s a damn good business for someone to take over.”

If Thoresby ad Kellingley are closed, it is understood more coal will be imported from Russia to satisfy Britain’s demand, a suggestion that angers Mick Stevens.

“I believe it’s an absolute ridiculous situation for this country to be in, given the way relations are with Russia at the moment,” he said.

“People forget that coal is burned to produce electricity, so it will affect them.”