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On a knife-edge: Hatfield coal mine

World Coal,

The future of the UK’s last viable underground coal mine at Hatfield is undecided amid make-or-break talks aimed at securing its survival.

The South Yorkshire coal mine is currently being kept afloat by a £4 million loan from the National Union of Mineworkers. There are hopes that crucial contracts can be signed this week with two power companies.

Hatfield recently tried to sell supplies directly to four power generating firms – Drax, EDF, E.On and SSE – but its coal is more expensive than the global market price and two of the privately-owned operators have already turned their backs.

Nonetheless, chairman of the Hatfield Colliery Partnership, John Grogan, said “we are hopeful of concluding contracts with two” of the power firms.

Hatfield produces 1 million tpa of coal and has significant reserves of the fuel. The coal it produces is also known as being far higher in quality than imported supplies, which mainly come from Colombia, the US and Russia.

Figures from the Association of Coal Importers show that the UK used 60 million t of coal last year and 49 million t of that was imported.

Coal-fired power plants provide about 40% of Britain’s energy supply needs, yet this number is set to decrease as the UK government looks to invest in alternative sources of energy.

The government has awarded the contract to build a new nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset to French firm Areva. Yet Areva has seen its credit rating downgraded, following trouble over contracts to build nuclear reactors in France and Finland – both of which are well over budget and years behind schedule. Both are of the same design as those reactors proposed for Hinkley Point. 

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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