Letter: British Coal's stranglehold on pits

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The Independent Online
Sir: I welcome very much Crispian Hotson's observations (Letters, 22 October) on the continuing unwillingness of British Coal to issue mining licences to respectable and experienced companies, keen to win coal and offer employment in mines closed by British Coal.

Whole valleys (and, now, virtually the whole coalfield) in South Wales have lost their mines, sterilising considerable reserves of high-grade, specialist coals such as anthracite, dry steam and coking - coals that are expensive to import and not easily substituted. They are also losing, rapidly, the availability of skilled and professional miners, haulage contractors and support services.

Whatever the motives of British Coal for closing individual mines, there can be no excuse for it continuing to use its monopoly powers to refuse access to those coal reserves and employment to its former miners if private mining companies are prepared to take up the challenge where British Coal backed off.

As long as the companies in question abide strictly to employment and health and safety legislation, and as long as they meet local planning and environmental requirements, the Department of Trade and Industry should ensure that they exercise a right to produce coal and employ miners in areas such as South Wales sorely hit by unemployment.

This, surely, is a golden opportunity for Michael Heseltine to intervene and, quite frankly, I could give a damn which meal he does it before or after. Just so long as he gets off his hands and does it.

Yours sincerely,

KIM HOWELLS

MP for Pontypridd (Lab)

House of Commons

London, SW1

22 October

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