17 Aug 2020

England's Last Coal Mine Closes Despite Demand for Almost 8m Tonnes of Coal a Year

17 Aug 2020  by Frazer Maude   

Today marks the end of an era, with the closure of England's last commercial coal mine.

The Bradley Mine in County Durham has operated for almost 200 years.

But now, after plans to expand the site failed, the open-cast pit that produces 150,000 tonnes of coal a year will close.

It is the worst possible news for the miners who work here, especially when they know that the UK still has a demand for almost eight million tonnes of coal a year.

This demand is mainly satisfied by imports that come from Russia and the US.

AdvertisementAlan Mayman has been a miner for over 25 years. Now in his mid-50s, he faces an uncertain future.IFrame

"I'm devastated, absolutely devastated that it's coming to a close," he says.

"The county council and the government have done nothing to support us, so this'll be the last coal mine that I'll probably ever work on. Then that's it."

"So what now," I ask.

"Haven't got a clue," he replies.

Graeme Stott is relatively new to mining. After careers in military intelligence and mental health provision, he started an apprenticeship at Bradley two years ago.

"My partner's family are in it, they've been in it for 30 years," he says.

"My father worked for British Steel, and that industry's gone. It's awful.

"To think that there's British lads there that can do the job. We've got all the machinery, we've got all the training. We're probably more qualified than the rest of the world, but we've had it taken away from us."

There are still a handful of small mines operating in Scotland and Wales. But their days too are numbered. The Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme in Merthyr Tydfil will be the last of those to close in October 2022.

The coal industry in England has been in decline for years. The miners' strikes, with mass walkouts and pitched battles over pit closures in the 1980s couldn't save it, and it has faced a slow painful death ever since.

The last deep mine, at Kellingley in North Yorkshire, closed five years ago. Since then the only home produced coal has come from open cast mines like Bradley.

There is still coal here in Consett, but owners Banks Group says it's only commercially viable if they can extend their operation.

Environmental campaigners fought against those plans - and won.

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