Lights Out in Britain for the Coal Industry – by Stephen Castle (New York Times – October 31, 2015)

KELLINGLEY, England — Tens of thousands of British coal miners have lost their jobs in recent decades, during the steep decline of an industry that stoked the nation’s industrial rise, sustained it through two world wars and once employed more than one million people.

Chris Jamieson will be one of the very last. In December, his job is set to disappear when Kellingley colliery, Britain’s last deep coal mine, is scheduled to close for good.

In the mine’s empty parking lot, Mr. Jamieson, 50, is already thinking about the moment in a few weeks’ time when the last group of miners is hauled to the surface. He expects to work the final shift at the colliery, which has been reduced to little more than a quarter of its peak work force and is succumbing to pressure from cheaper imported coal.

“I will be putting the lights out,” he said, adding that, after a quarter-century in the industry, he would particularly miss not just his paycheck but the unique camaraderie among colleagues who work together underground.

“We are the last of the dinosaurs,” he said. Like the largest dinosaurs, the miners have left a giant footprint.

Though open cast mining will continue in Britain, Kellingley’s closing is the final chapter in the story of underground mining, an enterprise that spanned more than two centuries and helped make Britain an industrial power and a thriving exporter.

The miners have not gone quietly. In the 1980s, they mounted bitter strikes to resist closings, and even as their clout has steadily diminished through the subsequent decades, they have remained proud and defiant.

“Coal put ‘great’ into Great Britain — it’s as simple as that,” said Chris Kitchen, president of the once mighty National Union of Mineworkers, which in the 1970s sometimes brought the country to a halt with its demands.

For the rest of this article, click here:

Comments are closed.