MINERS’ leaders are launching a rescue bid to keep Maltby Colliery open - and save more than 500 jobs.
Owners Hargreaves Services say the colliery, one of England’s last remaining deep coalmines, is no longer viable on health and safety, geological and financial grounds.
They have proposed to mothball the pit - putting all 541 employees at risk of redundancy - and end a coal-producing history spanning more than 100 years.
Chris Kitchen, National Secretary of the Barnsley-based National Union of Mineworkers, said: “We’ve been invited by the company to come up with a rescue package and we will be taking up that invitation.
“This isn’t a closure announcement. It’s an announcement of potential mothballing, so there is hope.
“There’s coal there and an experienced workforce prepared to mine it. We just need to put those two elements together in a safe environment that will keep the pit open.”
The company will continue to consult with unions, and has asked for alternative proposals to be tabled by November 30.
Spokesman Mike O’Sullivan said: “Staff have been very professional. We are consulting with unions to work towards a conclusion.”
Mr Kitchen, who said the union had around 300 members working at Maltby pit, said workers were dismayed.
“I think people are devastated and that is a sentiment echoed by the union. We haven’t got may pits left and we need to protect the ones we’ve got.
“There is a feeling of dismay. It’s not a surprise as we have been on notice there would be possible job losses, but it’s always a shock when it comes.
“We don’t want to accept defeat if there is still a chance.”
Kevin Barron, MP for Rother Valley whose constituency covers Maltby, said: “It was expected but everyone is a bit shocked.
“There is still coal down there but getting to it is going to cost some money and it’s a question of how much needs to be spent getting to it.
“It’s not good from the workforce’s point of view. The pit is very symbolic in Maltby and transformed it into an industrial village.”