Industry in Crisis: The Mines: Private firm offers to buy pit marked for closure

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The Independent Online
A PRIVATE company yesterday offered to buy one of the pits scheduled for closure by British Coal.

The Ryan Group, based in South Wales, formerly expressed an interest in buying Betws Drift, British Coal's smallest colliery in production.

It believes it can sell the pit's output of 126,000 tons of anthracite while keeping the 110 workers employed.

The mine is the only one of the 31 on the closure list expected to receive serious interest from private bidders until Government plans for privatisation are complete.

Steve Williams, managing director of Ryan, believes Betws's output could help displace some of the 700,000 tons of anthracite imported into Britain. 'Because it is a drift mine it does not have high infrastructure costs and can be run for low volumes,' he said.

Ryan mined 4.3 million tons of coal last year. It has open- cast mines in Britain as well as interests in the US and Poland.

Betws, which began production in 1978, is planned to close at the end of the year and Mr Williams said it would be important to reach agreement before output ceased as collieries deteriorate very quickly.

British Coal said it would study any proposal put forward by Ryan.

A number of the collieries threatened with closure are believed to have been earmarked as worthy of consideration of privatisation including Bentley, Frickley and Rossington, all near Doncaster, which are part of the so called 'golden circle' of valuable pits.