British Coal to halt production at last of 10 'doomed' pits

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The Independent Online
BRITISH COAL will cease production at Betws in South Wales on 15 January, in spite of a High Court ruling that the decision to close it - along with nine other mines - was unlawful.

The closure of Betws, the last of the 10 doomed mines to stop production, comes in the midst of union demands that mining and development be resumed at the other nine collieries following the court ruling.

Arthur Scargill, president of the National Union of Mineworkers, said he deploredthe decision.

'Betws colliery is currently recording a substantial profit. This decision demonstrates not only contempt for mineworkers and the two House of Commons select committees currently reviewing the pit closures, but represents complete disregard for the High Court ruling on 21 December 1992,' he said.

Peter Woods, a spokesman for the mining unions' legal advisers Stephens Innocent, also attacked the demise of Betws as outrageous. Earlier this week, however, a spokesman for British Coal said that the company might still consider an appeal against the High Court decision.

The end of mining at Betws, which employs 113 people, is likely to cause controversy as it supplies the domestic market rather than the electricity industry. British Coal has blamed competition from gas and nuclear power in power generation for the proposed pit closures. In October the company said that production would cease within months at 31 deep mines.

The debate over the future of the coal industry will come to a head at the end of this month as the results of the closure reviews by the select committees begin to emerge. The Department of Trade and Industry is also to report on its own review of energy policy in the UK, including the future of coal, and is expected to publish a White Paper in February.

A spokesman for British Coal said: 'Stephens Innocent fully understands the court judgment but are just crying wolf. The High Court placed no obligation on British Coal to continue coal production or development work at the 10 collieries.'