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Book 7 The Death Throes

1997 - 2000


1997 Pages

1997 - Page 7

Asfordby Records

A record 242 yards (221m) advance in a development heading was achieved at Asfordby in the same week. Over a period of 4 weeks, 747 yards (683m) of heading was achieved, using a Joy 12BM 18 Bolter miner, averaging 34m a day.

In June the 65 yards (60m) long retreat-face at Asfordby retreated 109 yards (100m) in a week, albeit that volcanic sills overlying the seam were causing heavy weighting at the face. A new retreat face was brought on stream at Asfordby in July. This face produced 13,132 tonnes for the week and the highest total output for the pit was 19,500 tonnes.

‘New Labour’ Government

On 1st May 1997 a ‘New Labour Government was elected with Tony Blair as Prime Minister 1997-2008. Deputy PM John Prescott.

Energy Minister Peter Mandelson May 1997- (Lab), but was succeeded after a very short time by John Battle (Lab) 1997-1999. In the previous Conservative Government term of office 170 pits were closed from May 1979 to May 1997. Only 12 pits would be closed in the country during Blair’s term of office. Since 1947 though the total number closed was about 955 deep mines371 by Labour and 584 by the Conservatives. There were hundreds of small licensed mines closed as well since Nationalisation.

Thoresby Tonnage

At Thoresby (Nottinghamshire), a 295 yards (270m) long 6ft 3in (1.9m) thick face in the Parkgate seam averaged more than 50,000 tonnes a week.

British Coal Wound Up

On 31st July 1997 J Neil Clarke retired as part-time Chairman of British Coal, since 1996. British Coal was wound up. P Hutchinson succeeded temporarily until 31st December 1997 when the Department of Trade and Industry (Dti) took over.

Asfordby (North West Leicestershire) Closed After 2 Years

Photo From Audit Now

Further closures: On 15th August 1997 a new coal face at Asfordby colliery near Melton Mowbray in North West Leicestershire experienced severe heavy weighting and water began pouring in from the overlying water-bearing strata. The face soon became flooded and it was impossible to pump it clear, and the ventilation was cut off. The conditions at the pit were assessed and in the light of what was found, a decision was made to close the colliery on 18th August 1997 after only 2 years of production.

The new Asfordby mine was sunk by British Coal 1986-1987, and opened in April 1995, after 11 years of preparation. The proposed site was chosen in 1982 and preparation work continued to 1984.

The temporary winding headgears were built first and the permanent tower winding headgears were built in 1987 and coal was reached in the sinking in that year.

The 490 miners had produced only 1.5 million tonnes of saleable coal in that time.

The cost of the project was around £350m - £400m. It had been planned as a super-pit to produce up to 4 million tonnes a year, when in full production. However the project seemed doomed from the start. It had been sunk near to Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, to the extreme end of the Vale of Belvoir, in the centre of which lies the best coal.

The two other sites proposed for mines were at Hose and Saltby, but planning permission for these had been refused, following a public inquiry. The scheme had been known as the North East Leicestershire Prospect (NELP) originally, as it was thought to be a continuation for the miners of Leicestershire as their pits closed down, also to distance it from the Belvoir Castle connection.

It was known that there was a ‘white wall’, where the layers of volcanic rock converged into one solid mass between Asfordby and the rich seams in the Vale of Belvoir, but that would have meant driving at least two tunnels over 2 miles long through this hard rock structure and of course as privatisation appeared, the public money disappeared, and RJB Mining would have to find the money for the development. That of course was not to be, as the City lost faith in the project.

Looking at the plan one immediately notes that to sink a mine in that position right on the edge of the Coalfield was ludicrous. It was known that there could be problems of water-bearing strata above the seams and the area to be worked from that location would be small in comparison to the position of the proposed Hose mine where workings could extend in all directions from the shafts. To save face the project had to go ahead even though the initial plans were scotched.

The NUM had to be appeased as promises for jobs from the pits that were closing had been made. Around 80 boreholes had been drilled throughout the area to prove the possible number of seams to work before any thought had gone into the scheme in my opinion. The Duke of Rutland at Belvoir Castle was not going to allow mining ‘in my back yard’. He had more influence than the Coal Board.

There was a petition of 30,000 signatures against the scheme plus further opposition from 30 Parish Councils. There was no major road or rail to the favoured central site. Town and Country Planning had to be sought for underground working (as applied to all new mines after 1948) as well as surface works. How could the coal be transported from the Vale?

In October 1979 a public enquiry was held to consider whether mining should be allowed. It was not until 1982 that the NCB were informed that a new submission must be made. In 1983 the Secretary of State for the Environment finally agreed that one site could proceed. There was an old disused rail connection near to the site that could be used.

Work in preparation for construction of the new £400m colliery at Asfordby started October 1984. The initial exploration had begun in Nov 1973. It was decided to construct freezing chambers at 300 yards (275m) below ground level to allow sinking to proceed through the water-bearing measures.

Planned shaft sinking was 141 weeks. The UC shaft, surface level 293.3 feet (+89.4m), drilling was started 21st Aug 1985, and finished by 22nd January 1986 (22 weeks). The DC shaft, surface level 295 feet (+89.9m) also had 4 drills and started 11th Dec 1985 and finished 16th Apr 1986 at 563 yards (515m), winding level at 480m. The freeze holes had to be drilled to great accuracy and 39 were drilled by British Drilling and Freezing Ltd to give an ice wall of about 5 feet (1.5m). The project was renamed South East Nottinghamshire when looked at as a possible extension from Cotgrave. Originally it was a colliery in Central Area. Finally it was brought under the administration of the Nottinghamshire Group with HQ at Edwinstowe. Note the large turnover of management in such a short time. Nobody seemed to stay there long. Not good for continuity for a new mine. There would be too many ideas and changes, human nature dictates it. Although hundreds of metres of roadways were driven, some at phenomenal rates the infrastructure still did not ring true to me and I had surmised rightly that the enterprise would fail, but of course at the time of sinking and initial driving, it was public money!

I remember visiting the pit in 1987 and descending the shaft in the sinkers’ kibble and noting water streaming down the shaft walls and particularly paddling in a few inches of water in the new pit bottom and drivages. Was this a sign of things to come, in fact the ‘Gypsy’s warning’?

I saw Anderson Strathclyde RH14 road headers being used and all circular concrete-sectioned roadways and yet it was not thought to be a wet pit!!! Geological records proved otherwise.

There was a collapse of one of these roadways later. The tower winders were independent engines with double deck cages with tilting decks and counterweights for double bogey cars or 6 tonne capacity mine cars.

The coal prep plant LARCODEMS improved washing performance and fines recovery.