Private companies to resurrect three pits

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THREE more deep mines where British Coal has stopped production are to be taken over and reopened by private sector companies. The announcement will fuel criticism that British Coal is closing mines in spite of unsatisfied demand from industrial customers.

The company said it was in advanced talks with three parties: RJB Mining for the lease and licensing of Calverton colliery near Nottingham; Coal Investments for the Silverdale colliery in Staffordshire; and a management buyout team at Hatfield colliery in Yorkshire.

RJB Mining, one of the UK's largest private coal companies, has already reopened mines shut by British Coal at Clipstone in Nottinghamshire and at Rossington in Yorkshire. The company also plans to bid for pits made available on the privatisation of British Coal, scheduled for completion within a year.

Coal Investments, which is run by Malcolm Edwards, former commercial director of British Coal, last month announced plans to reopen the Hem Heath and Coventry collieries in the Midlands. It has raised pounds 11.5m to invest in the mines.

RJB and Coal Investments say there is substantial demand from domestic and industrial customers that would otherwise be met by imported coal.

The companies will avoid reliance on the electricity generators. Falling sales to National Power and PowerGen have been blamed for the demise of British Coal, which will soon have only 16 operating deep mines compared with 50 in October 1992. It denies having shut mines unnecessarily, saying it cannot keep collieries going when only a fraction of their output can be sold.