A MINING union has urged UK Coal to enter into “meaningful discussions” in a bid to try to keep Yorkshire’s last remaining deep coal mine open until 2018.
Speaking after he met with Energy Minister Michael Fallon yesterday, National Union of Mineworkers’ (NUM) general secretary Chris Kitchen urged the ailing coal company to meet with unions in a last-ditch attempt to keep Kellingley Colliery near Knottingley, and Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, open long-term.
Last week a managed closure plan that would keep UK Coal in business until 2015 was cast into doubt when a private backer who had pledged £5m towards a £20m closure plan backed out.
Both the National Union of Mineworkers and the TUC believe that a larger state loan to keep the mines open until 2018 could be cheaper in the long run for the Government, which had pledged £10m towards the closure plan.
Yesterday the unions urged Mr Fallon to reconsider funding the company long-term.
Mr Kitchen said: “The minister is using the argument that he hasn’t been asked to look at any other plans for state aid - just the 18-month closure plan.
“UK Coal seem reluctant to look at anything other than the 18 month closure plan.
“The danger is, if we can’t get it done quick enough the pit could end up shutting. We need UK Coal to engage more fully with the trade unions to come up with a survival plan which can be put to the minister for him to consider state aid.”
UK Coal first announced plans to close the mines in April.
It warned that without the managed closure deal the business was “likely to enter insolvency in the coming days” - and the loss of 1,300 jobs.
A company spokesman said it was “very happy” to speak to the NUM and TUC.
He said all options, including applying for European funding, had already been investigated by the company.
He said: “The thing that was very clear to us, given the time constraints we were under, was the only option to us was the 18-month closure.
If we don’t get the 18-month close down there is no company to talk about, we’d be insolvent.”