Pit job losses approaching closures target: British Coal sheds 19,000 staff since October

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The Independent Online
THE NUMBER of jobs cut by British Coal since October has already reached nearly two-thirds of the total the company announced when it said that 31 pits would shut with the loss of 30,000 jobs.

Almost 19,000 people, 18,200 miners and 600 other staff, have left the industry in the last eight months - leaving a mining workforce of less than 23,000.

Neil Clarke, British Coal's chairman, said this week that about 3,000 of the company's white-collar staff also faced dismissal. The dramatic reduction in numbers is proceeding unchallenged despite the public and political outcry when the closure plans were made public.

Although 12 of the 31 pits were 'reprieved' following the Government's review of the coal industry, British Coal has yet to find a market for the coal. Its main customers are the generators, National Power and PowerGen. However, they have made it clear that they are prepared to buy only limited extra supplies from British Coal and, with stockpiles of more than 30 million tons, need no extra coal at all for some time. The 12 reprieved mines are adding to British Coal's own stockpile - about 11 million tons - at the rate of 1 million tons a month.

British Coal yesterday offered five pits which have already ceased production to the private sector, in addition to four offered two weeks ago. They are: Rossington and Markham Main, near Doncaster; Bevercotes and Clipston in Nottinghamshire, and Betws in South Wales.

Betws is expected to be the subject of two separate buyout bids - one from management and one organised by unions. The mine has reserves of anthracite which could be sold to domestic and industrial customers while most of British Coal's mines depend on the electricity industry for sales. According to a coal industry source: 'Betws is one of the few mines to be offered to private companies with any hope of re-opening.'

The mines are offered for lease and licence, as British Coal cannot sell them outright. Ryan and R J Budge, which are private mining companies, and Malcolm Edwards, the former commercial director of British Coal have expressed an interest.

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