1995 - Page 1
The End Of Nationalisation After 48 Years
British Coal handed over the running of most of the English coalmines to RJB Mining, Chief Executive Richard Budge, and Chairman John Robinson on 31st December 1994, 48 years after nationalisation. The companys first underground working had been a small drift mine called Castle Hill Drift, Blenkinsopp, (Northumberland). Their main operation was opencast mining. William Rowell (10141) was Director and Alec Galloway (10934) Deputy. RJB paid £815m for the pits.
The 21 mines taken over by RJB Mining (with HQ at Harworth) were:
- Asfordby sunk 1984-1988
- Bilsthorpe sunk 1925-1928
- Calverton No1 sunk 1937-1939 and No2 1946-1952 (from 23/5/1994)
- Clipstone sunk 1920-1922 (from 24/1/1994)
- Harworth sunk 1920-1924
- Thoresby sunk 1926-1928
- Welbeck sunk 1912-1915 in Nottinghamshire.
And other mines were:
- Daw Mill sunk 1955-1958 and 1968-1970 (Warwickshire)
- Castle Hill, Blenkinsopp Drift (Northumberland)
- Rossington sunk 1912-1915 (South Yorkshire)
- Thorne sunk 1920-1926 (South Yorkshire) had been stood since 1960s, due to shaft and water problems
- Maltby sunk 1907-1911 and merged with Silverwood sunk 1900-1905 (South Yorkshire)
- Ellington sunk 1909-1913 (Co Durham)
- Point of Ayr sunk 1890 (North Wales)
- Kellingley sunk 1957-1960 (North Yorkshire)
- Prince of Wales, new drift mine 1977-1980 (North Yorkshire)
- Selby complex (Yorkshire) - (Gascoigne Wood adits was UK's largest coal distribution centre 1978-1985)
- Wistow sunk 1977-1979
- Stillingfleet sunk 1980-1986
- North Selby sunk 1979-1986
- Riccall sunk 1978-1985
- Whitemoor sunk 1980-1986 all 5 connected to the main adit conveyor by vertical bunkers above, thereby allowing a constant flow of coal with no overloading.
Coal Investments collieries were:
- Coventry sunk 1912-1917 (Warwickshire)
- Hem Heath sunk 1924-1925 (Staffordshire)
- Silverdale sunk 1883 (Staffordshire)
- Markham Main sunk 1916-1922/24 (Yorkshire)
- Cwmgwili sunk 1960 (South Wales).
- Tower and Aberpergwm (South Wales)
- Maltby (South Yorkshire)
- Hatfield (South Yorkshire)
- Eckington Drift Mine (North Derbyshire)
Visit to Asfordby by the Energy Minister
On 1st January 1995 Tim Eggar, Energy Minister (Con) made a 2 hour underground visit to Asfordby accompanied by Richard Budge Chief Executive of the new owner RJB Mining and William (Bill) Rowell (10141) Director of Mining for RJB and John P Whyatt (11312) Manager of the mine. They saw a Joy ED18 continuous miner excavating a 3.5m thick section of Deep Main in a development roadway. Hopefully production was to start in May.
The target seams were Deep Main, Parkgate and Blackshale. High volatile coals, with Rank 802 to 902, but with a very high inherent moisture content, between 8% and 11%, thus making the calorific value quite low. The Vale of Belvoir Project team was formed in 1976. Boring to prove the coal seams had begun in 1973 and a total of 80 boreholes were drilled. The original Coalfield area for 3 proposed mines covered about 250 square kilometres and would yield around 510m tonnes.
The original Planning Application submitted for the 3 mines was August 1978. Application called in by Secretary of State for the Environment and a Public Enquiry was called January 1979. A pre Enquiry meeting was held May 1979. The Public Enquiry began October 1979 and lasted until May 1980. The Application was refused by the Secretary of State in March 1982. A new submission just for Asfordby mine in July 1982. Permission was granted for Asfordby in May 1983 and financial approval given by the Government January 1984. Start of construction work for the new mine was begun August 1984. Overall it was 11 years from the first exploratory borehole and 6 years from the original Planning Application before work was started. It was envisaged that there would be a workforce of 1,270 men needed to achieve an annual output of 3m tonnes from 3 working faces on a 5 day week taking a seam extraction height of 2.35m. However an agreement was reached with the Union of Democratic Miners (UDM) for a 6 day working which would improve the output considerably to as much as 4m tonnes with a workforce of 1,450. The Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB) specification required was an average calorific value of 23,260 KiloJoules per Kilogram (KJ/Kg). The coal preparation plant had twin independent streams each with Larcodem separators, Banana screen for fines, 250 tonne capacity raw coal surge bunkers, centrifuges for dewatering and a thickener tank. Twin stream Baum wash-boxes with froth flotation and vacuum filtration for fines treatment was proposed with homogenisation and conventional thickener which could handle up to 600 tonnes per hour each giving 1,200 tonnes capacity. A filter press plant was also required.
Bilsthorpe to Close
In January 1995, it was announced by RJB Mining that Bilsthorpe (Nottinghamshire) was to close within 2 years.
The Parkgate seam area was exhausted and the newly accessed Blackshale seam, which only had a small workable area, was poor in quality.
Pillars of coal had to be left in Low Main and the new seam to protect Ompton pumping station. It was later announced on 3rd April 1995 that there had been a fire on an underground conveyor carrying coal to the pit bottom since Sunday 26th March 1995. Outcome?
The fire had started at the return end of a trunk conveyor in the Parkgate seam. The conveyor tension end was situated in a blind end set with wooden roof supports (and wooden legs).
It would appear that a build up of fines or small coal had been set on fire due to friction on the conveyor return roller. The fire was not detected for some considerable time so much so that the belt had parted (broken). Men were sent to the scene to extinguish the blaze but quite a lot of damage was apparent as part of the conveyor belt needed replacing in order to join it up again. It was found also that electrical cables were damaged by the conveyor belt continually rubbing against them, plus many areas had coal spillage and other electrical equipment was almost buried. The Mines Inspector was informed and visited the site and submitted a list of items to the Manager that needed to be put right before coal production from that area could recommence.
As was becoming increasingly necessary at the time, private contracting firms had to be approached to supply the manpower to carry out the prescribed remedial work. The effects of a slimmed down workforce, meant that collieries in general and in this case, Bilsthorpe in particular, had little or no spare manpower to cope with the numerous events, planned or not, that are a commonplace in mining. At this particular time, at the majority of collieries, the core activity of coal production was carried out by the colliery workforce, leaving many duties such as developments, salvages, major mechanical or electrical installations, roadway repairs etc., etc. to the outside contractors, of which at this time there were a great many.
Last Issue of Coal News
The last issue of Coal News No 401 (price 30p) was published in January 1995.
Gas, Gas, Gas
Photo - Chris Sampson
At Harworth (Nottinghamshire) in February, a 3-gate panel was producing an average of 40,000 tonnes a week from the 2.6m thick Deep Soft seam. The third gate was necessary due to the large amounts of methane gas given off by the coal around 1,900 litres/second. The men on 14s panel had cut up to 130 strips and advanced 70m per week in a 5 months ‘Gold run’ since September 1994 using a 400hp BJD Ace shearer.
In April, an 18 MW power plant came on stream powered by that methane gas. Years before at Harworth, the methane gas from the Barnsley Bed was captivated and sold to the Glass bulb factory nearby until that closed. It has been one of the gassiest pits in the country.
DS6s panel in Deep Soft with 3,000m run was using a 1,000hp, 3,300v 4LS RD shearer.
At smaller production pits, such as Clipstone (Nottinghamshire), the men were awarded another £8 per week on their wages by RJB Mining. The NUM were to ballot their members on industrial action in the next few weeks, against the 3 year pay freeze imposed by RJB Mining.
Former Tip Sites Sold to Nottinghamshire County Council
On 20th March 1995 eight former tip sites were handed over to Nottinghamshire County Council for reclamation. For a peppercorn fee of £1 each, the tips at the closed Bevercotes, Blidworth, Cotgrave, Manton, Ollerton, Sherwood, Silverhill and Teversal and Warsop mines were intended to use most of the land formerly owned by British Coal to create woodland and community amenity areas.
My photo shows the view from Berry Hill Road over Mansfield with the restored Sherwood tip with trees and Silverhill restored tip in the background making it the highest point in Nottinghamshire. Even before the end of the 20th Century evidence of what were once dirt tips had disappeared. The landscape just looks like rolling hills. Future generations will assume the landscape is natural.
Contractors to be Finished
RJB Mining announced in March/April that up to 1,000 outside contractors were to be finished sooner than men employed by RJB Mining.
Sizewell B Power Station
Sizewell B in Suffolk, the latest and first pressurised nuclear water reactor was put into operation by Nuclear Electric and would be working fully by April 1995. Unfortunately this latest power station put another nail into the coffin for Nottinghamshire coal.
No To Proposed Opencast Site
‘Ashfield against Opencast’ members turned out to protest and campaign against any further opencasting by Coal Contractors Ltd near to the old Silverhill colliery site, where opencasting had been done earlier in the 1950s. Also Huthwaite and Stanton Hill residents objected to a scheme to opencast an area of the Upper Meden Valley stretching from Whiteborough Farm to Springwood Farm. However that project would go ahead and some ancient workings in Top Hard and Dunsil seams would be exposed.
Following the protest Ashfield District Council refused planning permission for opencast mining in the Meden Valley at Stanton Hill. However see later....
Annesley Bentinck Combine Re-Opened
The combine was re-opened in 1995 by Coal Investments Plc: Annesley Bentinck mine (Nottinghamshire), was closed in February 1994 but put on care and maintenance by British Coal. Water was also pumped from the Waterloo horizon at 263m deep at Bentinck and from 401m at the Tupton level and discharged into the River Erewash as well as sending water through to Annesley. The Manager for Annesley Bentinck mine Eric Blackwell (10164) continued, as did the Surveyor George Simms (5618). Chief Executive of Coal Investments Plc Malcolm Edwards is to left in photo.
Gordon C Harris (11100) succeeded as General Manager at Mansfield Woodhouse Mines Rescue Station 1995- .
First Issue of RJB Newscene
The first issue of ‘RJB Newscene’ newspaper was published in March 1995.
Secretary of State for Energy, Tim Eggar was succeeded by Charles Wardle (Con) Mar 1995- Apr 1995 (resigned), and he in turn was succeeded by Richard Page (Con) -1997, following the shock resignation.
Pay Rise for Richard Budge
Richard Budge owner of RJB Mining after purchasing the pits from British Coal was to have a pay rise from his £225,000 a year to £630,000 a year (by performance related bonuses) by the end of 1995, a 168% rise, albeit that the miners’ pay has been frozen for 3 years because of the difficult and competitive economic climate! Paddy Tipping MP (Lab) Sherwood had called on the Employment Select Committee to ask Mr Budge to give evidence to justify such an increase.
Asfordby Roadway Collapse
A main drift supported by concrete arching at Asfordby (North West Leicestershire) collapsed in May, causing the pit to be stood whilst repairs were carried out. Why? All the latest modern techniques for road drivages were being used.