Two of the UK's three remaining deep-pit coal mines might be shut down, threatening over 1,300 people with redundancy

Government will try to save UK's dying coal mines

Prime Minister David Cameron said the UK government will try to help UK Coal who announced plans to close two of the UK’s three last remaining deep-pit coal mines in the next 18 months.

The mines in North Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire employ about 1,300 people, whose jobs would be lost if no other solution is found.

Talking to BBC1, David Cameron said that although the government is dedicated to prevent the closure of the mines, there are limits to as how much tax payers money should be spent on prolonging the operations.

"I am in the business of trying to save jobs, of making sure we have diverse supplies of energy, so if I can help I will help. We want to do everything we can to keep people in their jobs, to keep businesses going," Cameron said.

If no solution is found, it will leave employee-owned Hatfield colliery in South Yorkshire as Britain's last remaining deep-pit mine. Jobs are also likely to go at UK Coal's head office in Doncaster.

It will mean the majority of the 2,000 people employed by UK Coal - which also operates six surface sites - facing a bleak future, nine months after the company was rescued from administration.

The firm is hoping to secure an emergency cash injection of up to £20m through a combination of funding from the Government and the private sector but will still need to make the cutbacks even if it succeeds.

A spokesman said: "We have started today consultations with the unions on looking at the way forward - that is, looking at reducing numbers in the coming months. If there are things  that we can do, if there is bridging finance that we can make available, then we will look at that very, very closely."

According to the TUC, shutting down the mines will make the UK more dependent on Russian and other foreign-sourced coal, weakening the security of energy supply. The union is putting forward an alternative rescue plan which it says will cost between £50m to £60m and is challenging an argument by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) that under European rules it cannot provide state aid, and that it has obtained clarification on the issue from the European Commission.

TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "The Government should back help to keep Britain's last coal mines open. This would be good for jobs, communities and for the environment as such assistance could help drive investment in carbon capture and storage, for which there is a growing international market."

A DECC spokesman said: "The future of UK Coal is primarily a commercial matter. However, we are in close contact with the company to ensure that Government is kept aware of the challenges they face."

UK Coal, which covers 4 per cent of the UK's electricity needs, has been hit by a strong pound and the increasing availability of cheap coal imports especially from the USA, where the shale gas boom has forced producers to find new international markets.

Its operations are relatively small compared to other large global producers whose size enables them to operate with lower relative costs, cushioning profits when prices come down.
This means that while coal still accounts for 40 per cent of Britain's energy needs, indigenous producers struggle to compete.

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