Pit Closures: Restart costs 'could be enormous'

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The Independent Online
PRODUCTION could take months to restart at nine of the 10 pits which were singled out for immediate closure in October.

The nine have been idle since British Coal's announcement with only one, Betws Drift, in South Wales, having continued to produce coal during the three-month statutory consultation period.

British Coal has pledged to the High Court to maintain the fabric of the 10 pits while 7,000 miners have continued to be paid at a cost of about pounds 25m.

But John Meads, general secretary of the British Association of Colliery Management, said that little maintenance had been done and many faces were suffering from neglect.

'British Coal has kept the shaft, pit bottom and main railways open. But it has done no work on the faces which will converge and the machinery will be crushed. In some cases you can do easy remedial work on getting everything clear but in others you have to give up and start again. The costs could be enormous,' he said.

In private evidence to the Commons Trade and Industry Select Commitee, British Coal admitted that a face at Silverhill pit in Nottinghamshire had been allowed to deteriorate beyond repair.

Problems have also arisen at other pits although some could start work almost immediately. The nine pits threatened with closure are Silverhill and Cotgrave in Nottinghamshire; Vane Tempest, Tyne and Wear; Markham Main, Grimethorpe, and Houghton Main in South Yorkshire; Trentham, Staffordshire; Parkside in Lancashire and Taff Merthyr in South Wales.

Mr Meads believes the nine pits are having less maintenance work carried out than during the strike of 1984-85.