Pfizer and UK Coal cuts hit North-east with 900 job losses

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The Independent Online

The north-east of England suffered a double jobs blow yesterday as the region's last deep coal mine was shut down and a multinational drug company said it was closing a manufacturing plant in the region. More than 900 jobs will be lost around the town of Morpeth.

UK Coal, which owns the rump of the British coal industry, has closed Ellington colliery near Morpeth with the immediate loss of 340 jobs. Millions of gallons of water had flooded the current site and 13 days of pumping failed to restore the mine.

Gerry Spindler, the chief executive of UK Coal, said: "We could not have asked for, or received, more commitment than that given by the Ellington workforce, and it is a great sadness that their attempts to maintain viable deep-mine operations for some years to come have been so abruptly terminated."

The company, whose shares dipped 2p to 129.5p on news that the closure will cost £6m, said it would be unsafe to move mining to adjacent areas.

The closure brings an end to the losses at Ellington, which were £11m last year, but it is a bitter blow to the local community. It came on the same day as Pfizer, the world's largest pharmaceuticals company, said it no longer needed a manufacturing plant in Morpeth, which employs 571 people.

The company will try to find a buyer and said it would work with the Department of Trade and Industry to try to minimise the effect on the local community.

The Morpeth plant makes pharmaceutical chemicals, and tablets and capsules for heart and arthritis medicines sold around the world. The closure is part of a manufacturing review at Pfizer, which was launched after it bought Pharmacia of the US in 2003.

In Sandwich, Kent, Pfizer employees were also told yesterday that 400 jobs would go over the next few years at plants making veterinary and human cardiovascular drugs.

Tony Maddaluna, Pfizer's vice-president of global manufacturing, said: "The capacity provided by these operations is not required."