Colliery deal to cut school heating bills

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The Independent Online
A consortium of Welsh local councils is poised to sign a contract with the resurgent Tower Colliery that will pare thousands of pounds from heating bills in schools, libraries, old people's homes and town halls.

The deal with the colliery, near Aberdare, comes on the second anniversary of the workers' takeover of the pit which was saved from closure when 240 men each chipped in pounds 8,000 redundancy money to run it as a co-operative.

Because the colliery can sell its coal substantially cheaper than gas, the heating bills of eight councils will fall by up to 25 per cent over the next two years. Just over 100 buildings will be supplied with Tower coal - a step towards increasing the colliery's sales to public service customers, many of whom switched to gas in the wake of the 1984-85 miners' strike. Tyrone O'Sullivan, formerly the National Union Mineworkers lodge secretary at Tower and now a director of the co- operative, said: "One of our aims is to re-establish coal as a credible alternative fuel."

Tower, the sole surviving deep mine in Wales turned in a profit of pounds 4m on a pounds 22m turnover in its second year of operations, an achievement celebrated with a pounds 500 per head Christmas bonus and a 5 per cent pay rise. Since the miners took over from British Coal on 2 January 1995, production has averaged more than 8,000 tons a week.

With male unemployment in the Aberdare district at 21 per cent, Tower plays a vital part in sustaining the local economy. The pit has even taken on extra men, including teenage apprentices - a traditional route to work that pessimists claimed had been consigned to history.