January 31, 2008 The Pump Handle 4Comment

Back in 1994, 240 coal miners in Hirwaun, Wales bought the Tower Colliery where they were employed.  The UK government was de-nationalizing the coal mines and the pit was scheduled to close.  The miners took charge of their own livelihood, used their severence-layoff pay and borrowed money, to buy the coal mine.

“In its first year, one of the oldest continuously worked pits in the world made a profit of two million pounds (~ $1 million US) …[and] provided jobs for hundreds of miners.”  (Reuters here)]

Last week, the miners and the community said their final goodbye to the Tower Colliery—its coal reserves have run out.

The BBC report says the Tower Colliery:

“…had reopened in defiance of the large-scale pit closure programme under the Thatcher government following the year-long miners’ strike of 1984-5 – a strike in opposition to colliery shutdowns.

“‘When there was the miners’ strike, and all the rapid pit closures, there tended to be something resembling a wake afterwards,’ said the 62-year-old grandfather-of-three, who started working at the mine 40 years ago after his own father died there.  ‘In Tower’s case, it’s a celebration of the last 13 years.'”

“Miner John Wood, 57, from Merthyr Tydfil said: ‘For the first three or four months in 1995 we struggled but we had a go at it and it has been a success for 13 years.  We have never had to lay men off and we’ve had a weekly wage.  It’s sad but it’s something we have to accept – the coal has been exhausted.'”

“Cynon Valley MP Ann Clwyd, who spent 27 hours down the mine to protest against the attempted closure in 1994, joined the final march.  She said: ‘I’m just very proud to have been part of it and to have been with the men all the way in the fight to keep it open.’ ”

“First Minister Rhodri Morgan said the miners had been “inspirational”.  ‘It’s a story of confidence among the workers in their own ability and in the future viability of their mine.'”

“Deputy first minister Ieuan Wyn Jones added: ‘It is an icon of Welsh resistance – the abiding history of a mining community which fought against all the odds and scored notable success.'”

The BBC story also notes:

“About 120 of the workers are expected to transfer to two newly-opened drift mines in the Neath Valley.  Seventy are expected to go to Aberpergwm mine within two months and the Unity mine will take a further 50 miners.  Mr O’Sullivan [who led the buyout of Tower in 1994] said he was confident no-one who wanted to continue working would be left out of a job.”

“Plans for the future of the 480-acre site are still being discussed, but Mr O’Sullivan said a new development, with the creation of jobs and affordable homes, would be a fitting tribute. ‘We’re hoping 1,000 jobs could be created, maybe in retail, leisure and housing. There could be lakes there, and places to walk,’ he said. 

‘I believe our company can leave a legacy to the community that will see today’s toddlers able to find a job up in the valleys when they’re 16 or 17, instead of having to leave the area.  It will be the greatest tribute that the workers could give. We’ll be leaving jobs, not statues.'”

A little feel good story for a Thursday afternoon.

4 thoughts on “Welsh Coal Miners Did it Their Way

  1. Actually, ~2m British pounds would have been a hair over $3 million US at the time, not $1 million. It’s an even better feel-good story when the profits seem to triple. =)

  2. Mike,
    THANKS! for the correction to my conversation of pounds to US dollars. Indeed, it makes the story all the better.


  3. Interesting article. In the end all these resources are finite. I hope that a memorial to all those who worked underground is built on the site.

Comments are closed.