The North Yorkshire colliery, Britain’s last deep coal mine, will close on 18 December
The miners look almost otherworldly as they burst from the cage that has carried them from deep under ground – their white eyes shining from faces black with coal dust.
The 40 men are shouting and swearing and appear euphoric at being back in the daylight after eight hours working nearly seven miles from the surface in the dark.
But their only welcome, as they march quickly into the lamp room and remove their lanterns and turn into a cavernous changing room to scrub themselves human again, is a grey December fog that has fallen on the world outside like a shroud.
This is Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire – Britain’s last deep coal mine – and the miners have just completed one of their final shifts before the pit that survived Margaret Thatcher shuts on 18 December. The closure of “the Big K” super-pit 30 years after the miners’ strike is the final nail in the coffin of a proud industry that lit up a nation and kept families warm in their homes.
Kellingley once employed 3,000 miners and was the biggest deep mine in Europe. But now the final 450 miners, the last in a long line stretching back for generations, are having to search for new jobs before the shafts that lead down to 30 million tons of untouched coal are sealed with concrete.
There is anger in the office of the National Union of Miners downstairs on the dirty-walled concourse, where a union official Maurice Kent is sitting at a desk beneath a picture of St Barbara, the patron saint of miners.
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