'Loser' pit makes pounds 2m profit in ten months

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The Independent Online
Tower Colliery, near Aberdare, made a profit of pounds 2m after tax on a pounds 15m turnover during its first 10 months of operation as a workers' cooperative.

British Coal (BC) had insisted that the pit was a loser. But Tyrone O'Sullivan, former National Union of Mineworkers' lodge secretary and now a director of the cooperative, said yesterday that the performance of South Wales's last deep-mine vindicated the miners' fight to keep it open,

All the 239 men who chipped in pounds 8,000 of their redundancy cheques, handed out by BC when Tower was closed in April 1994, will receive an interim dividend of pounds 500 before Christmas. An additional payout is expected in March.

At the beginning of 1996, everyone employed at Tower will receive a pounds 23 a week pay increase. That represents about 7.7 per cent on an average pounds 300-a-week job. Just over pounds 1m of the profit is earmarked for the purchase of the sophisticated cutting equipment needed to open up another coal face.

The pit reopened on 2 January this year and output in the first 10 months topped by 10,000 tonnes the 450,000- tonne target the miners set themselves.

Since it reopened, new markets for the mine's high-quality anthracite coal have opened up, and increasing tonnages are going to domestic wholesalers and customers in Northern Ireland and on the Continent.

Mr O'Sullivan, a miner for 33 years, said yesterday: "We are developing the pit so that its long-term future as a supplier of top-quality coal is assured ... we always knew that Tower is a winner. Now we are proving it."

The co-operative won praise from the local MP, Ann Clwyd, the Labour member for the Cynon Valley, who in April 1994 staged an underground sit-in to protest at BC's closure plan. She said: "Tower is an example to the rest of Britain. We're seeing socialism in action."