The Government plans to sell British Coal in five regional packages by the end of this year and those wishing to participate must pre-register by Wednesday. Wimpey and Powell Duffryn may also decide to bid for the north eastern group of mines which, like those in south Wales, are largely open cast.
Companies pre-registering must pay pounds 15,000 for each regional package on which they want more information, although some of the money may be refunded. RTZ is thought to have registered but it is unclear whether the group wishes to proceed with a bid.
Other companies wishing to buy all or parts of British Coal include RJB Mining, Ryan, a private mining company, and Edwards Energy, the company run by Malcolm Edwards, the former commercial director of British Coal.
Bids are also expected from management buyout teams and the Union of Democratic Mineworkers. Rothschild, the merchant bank acting on behalf of the Government, declined to comment on how many companies have so far shown interest.
RJB Mining yesterday re- opened Calverton colliery near Nottingham under lease and licence from British Coal. Calverton ceased production in November last year when it employed 640 men. RJB recruited 120 miners to restart the pit. Under present regulations private mining companies may have no more than 150 people working underground at once.
RJB has already re-opened Rossington colliery near Doncaster and Clipstone in Nottinghamshire. Richard Budge, chief executive, said that Calverton will bring the company's total output to almost four million tons.
Once British Coal is privatised, responsibility for the leased pits will pass to the Government's Coal Authority. Edwards Energy has also taken over several pits on a lease and licence basis in recent months.
British Coal's mining workforce has shrunk to 8,700. This compares with more than 40,000 in October 1992.Reuse content