The UK government is investigating new possibilities to address the future of the country’s last remaining deep-pit coal mines after a closure programme was cancelled due to an investor pulling out.
According to Energy Minister Michael Fallon, the government is still prepared to lend £10m to UK Coal to manage closure of two mines in Kellingley, North Yorkshire, and Thoresby, Nottingamshire, despite Hargreaves, one of the private backers and landlord of the two mines, withdrawing from the project last week.
"I understand the uncertainty this is causing," Fallon said in the House of Commons. "The exceptional offer we made of a Government loan of £10m to the consortium that was leading the rescue remains on the table despite the withdrawal of Hargreaves.”
According to the cancelled scheme, the two mines were supposed to be gradually shut down by autumn 2015, giving its 1,300 employees more time to prepare for the situation.
"We continue to work with UK Coal and its directors to explore what other sources of private investment might be available," Fallon said, explaining the government is exploring all viable options including an employee buyout. However, he stressed, any government investment would have to offer a good value for tax payers' money.
"Of course we have been considering the state aid case ... but we need to see a subsequent plan. We can only act on the basis of a plan put forward by UK Coal, which is a private company,” Fallon said.
"UK Coal has already had nearly £140m worth of taxpayers' support over the last 10-12 years so it's very important any new loan represents good value for money for the taxpayer."