Power chiefs summoned for coal talks

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The heads of Britain's biggest power generators and Richard Budge of RJB Mining have been summoned to a meeting with the Paymaster General Geoffrey Robinson on Monday to thrash out a deal to keep the pits open.

All three coal-fired generators - National Power, PowerGen and Eastern - will attend the meeting at the Treasury, which is scheduled to start mid-afternoon and continue until an agreement has been struck.

The meeting follows the confusion which surrounded Tony Blair's Commons announcement last week that an agreement had been reached between the generators and that Mr Budge that would keep all RJB's pits open until next June. Despite the Prime Minister's statement, it quickly emerged that no agreement had been reached and that none of the generators had signed up to take more coal supplies from RJB.

Mr Robinson has been trying to broker a deal for the past fortnight to avoid the political embarrassment of heavy job losses being announced in the coal industry in the run-up to Christmas.

It is feared that half of RJB's 17 deep mines could close with 5,000 job losses.