A panel in the Deep Soft seam at Harworth produced an average of 6,993 tonnes a day in January 1999, and a Parkgate face at Thoresby produced 6,314 tonnes. A development drivage at Thoresby averaged 15.7m a day using a MD 1100 heading machine. (Nottinghamshire).
Annesley Bentinck to Close
In February 1999, Midland Mining announced that Annesley Bentinck (Nottinghamshire) would close towards the end of the year, with the loss of 391 jobs.
The Last Pit Ponies In Britain To Retire
Incidentally the last 2 pit ponies in Britain were working underground at the small drift mine Pantygassed in South Wales. ‘Amos’ a 13 hands 2 inches (1.37m) high Welsh Cob and ‘Steel’ a 17 year old, had to pull 20 two ton trams a day. They were both to retire later in the year, bringing to an end an era of pit pony work underground that had been going on for centuries.
In 1913 there were 70,000 at work in Britain and when the NCB took over in 1947 they inherited 21,000.
Workforce Balloted Re-Taking Industrial Action
Both the UDM and the NUM Officials balloted all of their members regarding taking industrial action, following the breakdown of pay talks with RJB Mining. By a close margin, the miners voted to strike, if the rates and conditions remained the same. For the first time in the 15 years history of the UDM the miners had come out in favour of a strike. RJB Mining revised their offer in March 1999 and the threatened industrial action both by the UDM and the NUM was called off. Profits were needed to survive and a tonne of coal cost £30 to produce.
Opencast mining at the Smotherfly site near Alfreton (Derbyshire) finished production in March 1999. The site had been worked for 6 years.
A total of 11 seams had been extracted varying from 4 in (0.1m) thick to 4ft 4in (1.25m) thick, which had yielded 1,944,272 tonnes from the 510 acres (206 hectares), including 99 acres (40 hectares) of the former Pye Hill No2 colliery. A total of 42m cu yds (32m cubic metres) of overburden had been removed and then replaced.
The Smotherfly site was one of the earliest areas to be mined in Derbyshire, by Bell pits in the early 1300s. The site was bounded by Somercotes to the west, South Normanton to the north, and Pinxton to the east and Pye Bridge to the south.
Up to 80 shafts have been located in the area and contained the following named mines: Cotes Park, Coates Park, Carnfield, Heighington, Skellingthorpe, Victoria, Rachel, Shady, Balguy, Rope and Chain, Riddings, Old Birchwood, Upper Birchwood, Pinxton and Sleights.
Carrington's Farmsite near Smalley began excavating in June1999and production of coal began in July from Piper, Hospital top leaf, Hospital lower leaf, Deep Hard, Low Main and Threequarter seams.
Disability Payments Awarded
The Department of Trade And Industry announced that after negotiations with the UDM, miners found to have 80% disability from the effects of bronchitis and emphysema were to receive £3,500.
Calverton To Close For The Second Time
Colliery closures in 1999: On 9th April, RJB Mining announced that Calverton, (Nottinghamshire) would close on 16th April for the second time. Shaft positions: SK65SW, No1 shaft 460351,350153, No2 shaft 460276, 350153, 54m above sea level.
Of the workforce of 300, up to 120 would be offered transfers to other mines. Some of the men had already transferred 5 times from closed pits, and felt betrayed, as the mine had been re-opened by RJB Mining on 23rd May 1994, with a workforce of 120 and a promise of security, after being closed by British Coal on 19th November 1993 when 640 were employed when the output for the year was 860,000 tonnes. Salvage operations continued until 10th July 1999.
Seams worked: Although the Top Hard seam had 2 years reserves left, it was stated that the coal was too expensive to mine and also had high sulphur content. Cross measures drivages to open the seam had started from the Abdy Brinsley seam and from the High Hazles. An investment of £30m was needed to develop the Blackshale seam. Headings were started but abandoned before reaching the seam. The project was suspended on 12th July 1997 and finally abandoned 16th April 1999. Roof bolting introduced on C20s face head using a Boart BM8 and TMT 220 machine. An average of 28 gallons per minute of mine water was pumped from 382 yards (350m) deep at No2 shaft and discharged to ground at the surface.
Top Hard Panel numbers:
- TH1 retreat South Nov 1993-1st June 1996
- TH2 retreat NW May 1996-4th Oct 1997
- TH3 retreat NW Jan 1997-27th Mar 1998
- TH4 retreat NW May 1998-26th Apr 1999
- TH5 retreat Sep 1998-16th Apr 1999
- TH6 both development headings stopped 16th Apr 1999.
Managers for Calverton after re-opening:
- Robert J Hallam (11252) (continued, and later transferred to Welbeck 1995)
- Kevin Bancroft (11819) (transferred from Bilsthorpe 1995 then to Clipstone 1999, to replace Chris J Daniels (12111) who had been transferred to Prince of Wales colliery in Yorkshire).
Surveyor: Carl S Banton (6421) 1994-1999.
Further Job Losses
RJB Mining announced a further cut of 100 jobs at the 4 surviving pits in Nottinghamshire. Management and under officials jobs would be lost as well at Clipstone, Harworth, Thoresby and Welbeck, in order to create a more efficient industry, although union officials stated that this would only show that the long term future of the pits was in doubt. This followed the pressure put on the company when the shares dropped 11p to 52p on Tuesday 4th May. The problems had started when there was unrest among the workforce in February when strike action over pay rates was threatened.
Thoresby Break Into Ollerton Old Workings
On 29th July 1999, headings at Thoresby holed through successfully to the old abandoned Parkgate seam workings at Ollerton (Nottinghamshire). A total of 3,992 yards (3,650m) of drivage had been completed in twin headings, 19 feet (5.8m) wide and 12’ 6” (3.8m) high and 65 yards (60m) apart. Holes were drilled into the old works and the atmosphere was found to be 70% methane and only 1% oxygen. Further drivage to connect to existing roadways in the closed mine was necessary. Much preparation work would be necessary to make the mine air breathable and safe.
Miners On Salary But Colliery To Close
In September 1999, RJB Mining announced that Clipstone colliery would be closed by September 2000. This colliery was used as a test case in 1998 to put all the miners on salary, instead of on weekly wage. There were 170 employed. This would leave only 3 collieries in Nottinghamshire, namely Thoresby, Welbeck and Harworth. A maximum of 48 collieries was open at one time. The only pit working in Derbyshire was Moorside, a small private drift mine at Eckington. In the late 1800s over 260 pits were at work in Derbyshire.
Energy Minister John Battle (Lab) was succeeded by Helen Liddell (Lab) from July 1999 - 2001.
Sir David White Chief Executive at the Coal Authority, Mansfield was succeeded by Ken Ferguson.
Coalfields Regeneration Trust
The Coalfields Regeneration Trust was set up in 1999 to help former mining areas such as Mansfield and Sutton. A grant of 50m was given with the aim of supporting local community groups until March 2002.
Princess Royal Visits Harworth
Photo of Princess Anne by Shaun Flannery
HRH the Princess Royal (Anne) made her first underground visit at Harworth (Nottinghamshire). Her brother HR Highness Prince Charles had visited Welbeck (Nottinghamshire) some 20 years previously, when the famous 'Prince Charles' snicket' had been driven specially to create a shorter walking distance from the end of the manriding paddy to the panel being visited. It was only completed on the day of the visit! My neighbour Fred Crowder a member of the ATT (Area Tunnelling Team) worked on the project to complete the job on time due to a 'cock up' in gradient, and as he said, 'sweat from his brow fell and sizzled on his shovel and the last bit of covering was put into place and stone dust cast about as his Highness was walking down the gate'! He was walking down a gate but not that one, as his itinerary was changed and he was quickly escorted to another panel on the East side of the mine in case the snicket gate was not completed in time. (Quote Bernard Charles, Undermanager)
On 24th December 1999 there was an earth tremor in the Calverton area thought to have been caused by collapsing mine workings. It registered 1.3 on the Richter scale. There had been many tremors at Ollerton and would continue on occasion (about 30 noted late 2013, early 2014). I know from experience that these tremors were nothing to do with mining subsidence although many thought so. These were caused by movement of the Earth’s crust.
Thermal Imaging Equipment Used To Find Old Shafts
Survey engineering geologists at British Geological Survey, Keyworth, Nottinghamshire began using thermal imaging equipment to try to find old mine workings and old shafts. Air underground is a constant temperature, so in summer the ground surface is warm and the air underground is cooler, and the opposite happens in winter when the ground surface cools down and the air feels warmer.
Opencast: included Doehill House Top 1st Waterloo, Waterloo marker, Top 2nd Waterloo, Bottom 2nd Waterloo, Dunsil and Top Hard, 28/2/1999.
Annual Output For RJB Mining
Annual output for RJB Mining 1999:
- Calverton 182,709 tonnes, 164 men
- Clipstone 523,549 tonnes, 222 men
- Harworth 1,585,858 tonnes, 623 men
- Thoresby 1,665,309 tonnes, 533 men
- Welbeck 1,191,233 tonnes, 521 men.
In comparison the Stillingfleet combination at Selby produced 1,973,724 tonnes with 882 men.
Total opencast coal was around 3 million tonnes.