This autumn work should begin on the construction of the first new pit dug in Yorkshire for 20 years. New Crofton Colliery, to be built near Wakefield, will be a cooperative, with benefits to the community among its priorities. Bill Birch, a 64-year-old former mining engineer who is leading the project, predicts an annual profit of £50m earned by a workforce of 50 over a period of 22 years. He is a position to know, given his previous employment at the open-cast mine alongside the proposed new site.
Ex-miners are among the 400 investors being invited to buy stakes, with mining equipment suppliers and financiers being invited to invest an additional £11.5m. Ex-miners often say they would go back down the pit if the chance arose, and while some people are sceptical of that, competition for the 50 jobs will certainly be fierce, with Hatfield Main and Kellingley in Yorkshire due to close this year. I hope the investment is forthcoming as well; one thing the miners who left the industry between 1985 and 1994 never really got a chance to do was invest parts of their redundancy money in mines they believed had a future, and some would have done.
A comment by Jonathan Clarke, a director, seemed telling to me. ” We are going to show that the 1980s are history,” he told the newspapers, “and that a community can take charge of their own lives and move forward.” That “taking charge of their own lives” is the bit that struck me. In former mining communities there is an increasing sense that while local authorities and governments have invested millions of pounds in regeneration schemes, the people there are little better off – in some cases, they are worse off. Historically, many of the improvements in life quality were made or directed by the people themselves, and you now hear vague suggestions that if positive change is to come, it will come from within rather than from without.
World Coal has the full story about New Crofton here.