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The Independent Online
A rare newt, an unusual form of grass - but above all the Labour government - was yesterday blamed for the threatened closure of Whitemore Colliery in North Yorkshire. Underground workers from the pit who accompanied the official union delegations to London for yesterday's meeting of the Commons Select Committee, felt the future of their mine was out of their hands. Conservationists had stopped development of coal reserves under the River Derwent because of the danger to flora and fauna, but the main problem was that the Government, after 18 years in Opposition and seven months in power, had shown itself incapable of developing a balanced energy policy. The disgruntled men of Whitemore, which is part of the Selby complex, attended a rally at the House of Commons (above), but later encountered a long queue for the Committee hearing and opted for the pub instead. London prices of pounds 2-plus for a pint added little to their good humour. John Drury, a 32 year old face worker at Whitemore, detected that ministers may have just begun to listen to mineworkers. `If the Government doesn't get up off its arse, there's little doubt our pit is doomed,' he said. The miners of Whitemore were among hundreds of pitmen who came down the M1 in coaches from Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire to lobby Parliament yesterday. Terry Allinson, NUM delegate from Kellingley Colliery, Yorkshire, told the rally that he did not accept Labour MPs' arguments that it was difficult for ministers to develop a balanced energy policy. `Are they saying that I should go back to Kellingley four weeks before Christmas and tell the men they don't have a future?'

Photograph: Kalpesh Lathigra