Americans in talks to rescue Hatfield colliery and 200 jobs

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The Independent Online

Enron, the US energy giant, is understood to be in talks to rescue Hatfield colliery, the South Yorkshire mine which went into liquidation earlier this month. The coal mine closed two weeks ago and looked doomed before Brian Wilson, the energy minister, stepped in last week with £200,000 to keep the pit open on a "care-and-maintenance" basis until 21 September. The hope is to find a buyer to reopen it and save the 220 mining jobs. Sources in Doncaster area said Enron has expressed an interest in expanding further in the UK.

Hatfield, in the village of Stainforth near Doncaster, was closed by British Coal in 1994. But it was rescued by its management, with the backing of ECI Ventures, and they secured a lucrative deal to supply the nearby Drax power station.

But this year a fault on its main coalface plunged the business into losses and its only hope was a plan to open up new reserves. A deal involving the Japanese bank, IBJ, and AES, the American group which owns Drax, fell apart last month because £1m of EU subsidy, due in October, could not be brought forward.

A winding-up petition was issued against the Hatfield Coal Company, which operates the pit, and the Official Receiver was appointed on 13 August. He decided he could not afford to keep the mine open, even on a care-and-maintenance basis at £50,000 a week. He handed the deep-mine operating licence to the Coal Authority which has put it up for sale.

Kevin Hughes, the Labour MP for Doncaster North, which includes Stainforth, said Hatfield had a bright future if someone was willing to back it. "It has up to 100 million tons of reserves, and a contract with Drax for 12 million tons, and the coal is very desirable with low sulphur and ash."

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