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Kellingley: employee buyout of coal mine shelved

World Coal,

A proposed employee buyout of the embattled Kellingley coal mine in North Yorkshire, UK, has been shelved.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) announced that its five-year plan to save the put from closure has been put on hold.

UK Coal announced in April that it would close the coal mine, stripping 700 mineworkers of their jobs in the process.

The UK government has said it would loan the UK Coal £10 million for an 18-month "managed closure" of Kellingley and Thoresby Colliery in Nottinghamshire.

Chris Kitchen, from the union, said a buyout would involve employees taking on the whole of the company's £45 million debts. "As it stands, the employee buyout has been shelved, not totally ditched. The main problem is the costs have spiralled out of control,” he said.

"The lads at the pit were thinking of taking on Kellingley's debts, which was doable. But when you're talking about them shouldering the whole of the company, it wasn't realistic," Kitchen added.

UK Coal has called any employee buyout “totally unviable”, but denied accusations it was attempted to ‘block’ such a move.

The NUM’s plan would have seen workers invest £2000 each and take a 10% pay cut to keep the mine open until 2020.

UK Coal is looking to avoid insolvency, as the company blamed global market problems and a slump in coal prices as pushing it under. The company was also hit hard by a fire that destroyed and closed its Daw Mill coal mine in Warwickshire.

If Kellingley and Thoresby close, 1300 jobs will be lost. Employee-owned Hatfield coal mine in South Yorkshire will be left as Britain's last remaining deep mine.

Yvette Cooper, MP for nearby Pontefract, said: "The workforce have come up with a good plan to keep Kellingley open beyond 2015. The government and UK Coal management need to work urgently with the workforce to make this work, instead of just focusing on the closure plan."

The closure of the mines would mark an to a rich era of mining heritage, as the local communities in Yorkshire have generations of residents working in the pits.

Graham Isherwood, who worked at Ackton Hall Colliery in Featherstone for 10 years and is now a ward councillor, said: "It's tragic to even start thinking about the last pit being shut down."

The coal mining industry in the UK has felt the full effects of privatisation, which began over three decades ago following a bitter dispute with unions, and the infamous miners strike from 1984 – 85.

A report from Sheffield Hallam University claimed that the closure of coal mines continues to effect communities long after the doors to the pits are closed.

This fear still sits deep with residents who have seen generations of family members go down the local pits.

Victor Waddlow, who has worked at Kellingley for the past decade, said: "It's going to be hard. It's going to be hard for a lot of men at Kellingley because it's quite an old workforce."

Keith Hartshorne, who has worked at the pit for 26 years, said: "It's the end of an era and the industry as we know it, if it were to come about.”

"It's a very sad time," Hartshorne added.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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