The last deep coalminers in Britain arrived at Kellingley colliery in Yorkshire yesterday for their final shifts — and the end of an era.
Kellingley, one of Europe’s most modern pits, closes today and 450 miners will lose their jobs. Kellingley colliery is known as the Big K. It was the first pit in Europe to produce a million tons of coal a year. At its peak it employed more than 2,000 miners.
When the ripping machines made their last run along the quarter-mile-wide coalface yesterday, at least 30 million tons of accessible coal reserves were abandoned.
Yet every year, Britain imports more than 40 million tons of coal to burn in British power stations.
Energy expert Professor Steve Fothergill, from Sheffield Hallam University, says Kellingley's closure marks a significant turn in the country's economic history.
"Britain's industrial revolution and much that followed was fuelled by coal," he said.
"In the 80s and 90s I think you have to put down the closures to a vendetta by the Conservative government.
"But more recently it's been the economics. It's been very hard for the British coal industry to compete with coal traded on the international market.
"We are still burning extraordinary large quantities of coal in British power stations so it's not that we've stopped using coal; it's just that were not using UK-mined coal anymore."
Pat Harrington, general secretary of Solidarity, commented: "Cheap foreign imports are putting our workers on the dole. It's time we adopted economic nationalism and put our own workers first. Globalisation isn't working to the advantage of the ordinary worker here."
Srooge management posted a notice at the pit-head instructing the miners to keep working and producing coal yesterday so they could exact their last pound of flesh.
Headlined in red, it says: “ALL EMPLOYEES. Friday 18th December 2015. Normal attendance and operations will be expected for all shifts unless otherwise instructed.”
At the bottom a miner has scrawled a pithy and direct response: “Fuck off we’ll go when we want.”
A poster is also circulating among Yorkshire miners and their supporters.
It depicts an angry Kellingley miner with one finger sticking upwards in defiance and carries the message: “Thanks for fuck all you Conservative bastards” alongside the 1984-5 strike slogan: “Coal not dole,” and: “From Big K.”