Letter: Potential hazards of an unsafe coal face

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Sir: Your report that British Coal has allowed a coal face at Silverhill Colliery in Nottinghamshire to deteriorate beyond repair (16 December) is not true.

There was a major fall of roof at that face on 9 October, caused by adverse geological conditions. Production stopped immediately to enable the situation to be

assessed. Silverhill was included in the 13 October closures announcement because operations were not viable, and, as the market stands, there is no prospect of selling the coal produced.

However, following statutory consultation, should a decision be made to resume operations at Silverhill, then the colliery is in a position to return to production at two faces - one of them a new replacement unit - within a matter of days.

Bringing the face with the roof fall back into production would be a protracted and potentially hazardous task. It is not necessary at this time to make a decision on the future of that face. The face remains secure; it can be recovered. However, a judgement would have to be made as to when that face could effectively contribute to the future viability of Silverhill.

I would emphasise that British Coal has not breached any assurance made to the High Court or to Members of Parliament.

Yours faithfully,

A. WHEELER

Deputy chairman/

Operations director

British Coal Corporation

Eastwood, Nottingham

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