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Union loan could save Hatfield coal mine

World Coal,

The National Union of Mineworkers may have saved Hatfield coal mine – the UK’s last viable underground coal mine – by investing £4 million in the employee-owned mine near Doncaster.

The South Yorkshire pit had faced closure without urgent funds to start mining a new coalface in the coming weeks.

The Hatfield Colliery Employee Benefit Partnership, which runs the mine for the benefit of its 438 employees in a similar way to the John Lewis Partnership, said it had struggled to secure a loan from the government or banks.

John Grogan, chair of Hatfield Colliery, approached the NUM on 1 September and the loan was arranged within days. "Without an injection of finance we would have been struggling to get into the new face, and this [funding] allows us to get into it and guarantee our future for 18 months," he said. "The National Union of Mineworkers [NUM] has given us a future. It's hard for the deep mining sector to get money from banks."

According to The Guardian, Grogan said the NUM's £4m one-year loan was made on fully commercial terms that will pay the union a competitive, but undisclosed, rate of interest.

The NUM said: "This action is an unprecedented step for the union but reinforces its commitment to the deep coal mining industry in the UK. It is the view of the union that there is a future for coal in the generation of electricity in the UK for years to come and that the coal burnt should be UK mined coal securing employment for miners in the UK not imported from Russia and Colombia or anywhere else."

"The granting of the loan by the NUM has given us time to make the case to the generators [coal-fired power stations] and to government that the last deep coal mine in the country not to announce its closure deserves a future. We owe it to all those who have gone before us not to go quietly into the good night," Grogan said.

The Hatfield mine dates to 1916 and is the last of the UK’s underground mines not to have announced its closure – following announcements by UK Coal that it was to close the Thoresby and Kellingley coal mines within 18 months. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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