Don’t Mothball Maltby

March 26, 2013 7:34 am

Following George Osborne’s budget, there was much in the media about the ‘March of the Makers’. For those who may have missed out on this brave exhortation to Britain’s manufacturers, here is a slogan invented by Government to show that it has moved on from its love affair with bankers and financial services.

For nearly six hundred workers in Maltby,  South Yorkshire it won’t be so much the ‘March of the Makers’ , more a march to the nearest Job Centre, as Maltby Colliery ceases production after nearly a hundred years and hundreds of skilled jobs and trades are lost in an industry now in near terminal decline AT THE END OF THIS MONTH .

Modern mining is a highly technical, skilled operation, and what is more it can be clean. Britain could have been ahead of the rest of the World in developing clean coal technology and carbon capture for export. But this Government has turned its back comprehensively against it. The long hoped for Combined Heat and Power Plant planned slap bang next door to Hatfield Colliery in Ed Miliband’s constituency, received enthusiastic backing from the EU which said that it was the most advanced of its type in Europe. But when it came to match funding from the British Government for the company, Powerfuel Ltd, that wanted to build the plant which would have employed hundreds of workers in a state of the art power station, the investment wasn’t forthcoming.The project died.

Britain has an unenviable record in allowing great industrial and manufacturing projects either to go to the wall or be starved of new investment, from Swan Hunter shipyard under John Major to Sheffield Forgemasters under David Cameron.  But the closure of Maltby Colliery in South Yorkshire underlines the shocking gamble that successive Governments, but particularly Tory Governments have played with energy supplies and diversity of energy supply.

This winter upwards of 45% of our electricity will have been generated by coal. That percentage is set to diminish over time, because old coal powered plant is closing and Ministers have refused to invest in new clean coal technology. However, even now barely ten per cent of coal supplied to British power stations is domestically produced – the rest is imported, as if course gas, and will increasingly, be oil. However unfashionable it may be, we still need British coal for power generation.

Local MP, Kevin Barron, who worked as a miner at Maltby Colliery before being elected to Parliament hopes that plans to ‘mothball’ the pit can be successfully challenged. I hope he is right, and I hope that the Labour movement gets behind him, the National Union of Mineworkers and the local community. For if Maltby shuts there will be three operational deep mines left in the country, and it will become increasingly difficult to find the skilled workers needed for an industry that has in recent years enjoyed something of a revival. Daw Mill, the most productive mine in the country closed last month as fires raged out of control underground.

Some battles can be won even in Opposition. Stoke on Trent  MP, Tristram Hunt, has just succeeded in gaining important Budget exemptions over exorbitant fuel costs for the ceramics industry, not only helping to safeguard several thousands of  jobs in the industry – but helping to breathe new life into a World famous British industry.

In recent weeks, Labour has announced new policies aimed at developing regional investment banks, based very much on the powerful German model, and aimed at giving investment to the ‘makers’. We now need a powerful manufacturing and industrial policy, and we need to start by ensuring that the best of what we already have is maintained and expanded.

  • JoeDM

    Hang on a minute. I thought the left were all for green technology and not dirty coal.

    Surely you should be celebrating the fact that this mine can be closed and the workers can earn their living tending windmills !

    • rekrab

      Where have you been JoeDM, it’s possible to have coal power stations that captures carbon.

      • Jeremy_Preece

        Not to mention that what is left over after the fuel is used is infinitely safer and more environmentally friendly than nuclear waste.

      • PeterBarnard

        I dunno, Derek – I think that we should be moving away from sending men deep below ground to do dirty and hazardous work, because that is what coal-mining is.

        I lived four miles from Maltby and went to the grammar school there (1955-1962). Frederick Sewards Trueman – t’ greatest fast bowler that ever drew breath (but those were his own words) – was born in Stainton, a very small village a couple of miles from Maltby.

        Coal-miners were (and still are) a fine body of men but, as I say, we should be thinking of doing away with the whole dirty and hazardous business.

        • rekrab

          I beg to differ @Peter, although safety is always paramount we haven’t explored a costed risk assessment correctly.I believe with special pods in location we could end fatalities completely in the mines.

          The whole world has gone and got itself into a frantic mess over energy and fuel poverty is all to real in a country that has more than enough resources to end our fuel shortages.

          I believe it was another man named Truman who delivered the straight ball when he declared “The buck stops here” it seems to me in modern times no-one wants to take responsibility for tomorrows earners and today’s energy needs.

          • PeterBarnard

            I’ll defer to your (it seems) greater knowledge of mining technology, Derek. If coal can be captured, without undue hazard to human life and limb, then go for it. However, there is then the problem of emissions from burning coal, and I’m not sure that aspect has been satisfactorily resolved, as QS seems to indicate.

            One step that Labour could take, given the parlous state of our national energy infrastructure, is to commit to re-nationalisation of electricity, at least. It’s a comment on our (economic) times that we used to add 2.5GW of generating capacity every year between 1950 and 1970, and we were building 75 miles of motorway every year between 1960 and 1980, and we now seem to have to go with a begging bowl to the private sector to install vital and strategic infrastructure.

          • rekrab

            I think we all agree the technology is there but the lack of underpinning it’s process isn’t.

            @Peter Barnard, Brilliant quote and again your knowledge base of stats and history is unique and very must welcomed.Surely all nations should have tied in public spending on those main needs.

      • Quiet_Sceptic

        That’s not really true, carbon capture is being trialled on a small scale but it isn’t yet a mature technology in full scale operation.

        Part of the problem is that at present there’s no way to fund carbon capture – the carbon price under emissions trading makes it completely uneconomic to build and run CCS. We’ve had the UK government running it’s CCS funding competition/scheme which has been on and off for the last few years but no concrete developments have come from it yet.

        • rekrab

          We both agree the technology exists but the funding and will is oppressed by the nuclear factor.

    • Dave Postles

      Well now, Osborne’s strategy of the ‘dash for gas’ has been a huge success, has it not?

      * household bills expected to rise by £200 this year as gas prices rise with demand;
      * importing liquid gas from Qatar as an emergency (takes 18 days);
      * contract to import gas from the USA (well, not for the next 2 years);
      * how many days of supply at the moment?

      Useless git.

  • jaime taurosangastre candelas

    This is sad news for the miners, but looking at the news for the mine, the operators say that the geology and safety risks have become very difficult, with not so much coal left to be extracted (only 2 years). Even the unions are not complaining (or their complaints are not reported). Unless there is some new way of mining that can get around the safety risks, is this closure not inevitable?

    A better question would be what can replace the employment prospects for the town, and why has either this or the previous government not thought ahead, if the closure was forecast?

  • rekrab

    This disgusting coalition is taken the axe to what’s left of our industrial workings.
    How the hell is Jeremy Hunt been allowed to take Hundreds of millions from the NHS budget to fund a tax cut in NI for s/m business.This will reduce the NHS staffing numbers and any new jobs created will be cancelled out by this move. What a very silly person Hunt is.

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