The UK’s last deep coal mine will close on Friday 18 December, it has been confirmed, signalling the end of an industry that was once the powerhouse of the economy.
The closure of Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire, explored since the 1950s, will leave several hundred miners without jobs. The mine's operator UK Coal will also go out of business following the closure.
The end of mining at Kellingley Colliery means that all that is left of the once blossoming coal industry is a handful of open cast and drift mines employing a few thousand workers. In its heyday after the Second World War, the mining industry was one of the country’s major employers with up to a million miners working in about 1,000 collieries.
At that time, UK coal covered 75-80 per cent of the country’s coal needs.
However, with the growing popularity of gas-fired and nuclear power generation, the demand for coal started to shrink and by the mid-1960s 264 collieries were closed with the number of miners dropping by a third.
During a pit-closure programme launched in 1957, Scotland lost 39 per cent of its pits, while 30 per cent of those in South Wales, Northumberland and Durham were wiped out.
The last remaining UK deep coal pit used to be only one of several deep coal mines in the vicinity of the same-named town. More than 2,500 residents of Kellingley used to work in local mines.
The 1980s dealt a further blow to the struggling industry. In 1984, miners went on strike to protest against further pit closures.
Lasting for almost a year, the strike, which started in Yorkshire spread to the rest of the country and involved more than 140,000 miners during its peak. At that time, the UK mining sector employed about 190,000 miners.
Closures continued throughout the rest of the 1980s and 1990s. When the industry was privatised in late 1994, there were only a few dozen mines left.