England’s Last Active Deep Pit Mine Closes
One of England’s last remaining deep pit mines has been closed after 50 years of coal production. Kellingley colliery, also known as the “Big K”, was one of Europe’s most productive coal mines producing over 2 million tons of coal per year and employing over 2,500 miners at one point.
The closure has come as big shock for the miners, young and old, who had defiantly fought the closure of Kellingley for a number of years. Only a few years ago the owner of the Big K, UK Coal, were offering careers to workers as young as 20, however due to government reforms and privatised overseas deals their careers are over before they even began. At the other end of the age spectrum, people as old as 67 who have worked at Kellingley since the mines opened, feel defeated after being handed over redundancy cheques.
Many of the older miners have experienced less than savoury working conditions such as deafening noise, copious amounts of coal dust, temperatures reaching 35 degrees, extremely cramped conditions along with the countless other hazards including roof collapses and lift failures. A lot of the miners employed at Kellingley and various other collieries in the UK, have risked their lives to keep the lights on, not only for their families but for the entire nation for over 100 years.
Although health and safety regulations have become stricter over the last few decades and the coal industry has tightened up on Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), there are still many people that have and will, suffer conditions caused by coal mining such as the ailments mentioned below.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Many miners are already aware of the risks of hearing loss whilst working in the mines and many have already received a compensation pay out however there are many who still may have not associated their decline in hearing to the work they have carried out. Work on the coal face is extremely noisy especially when using cutting tools, considering the amount of space there is in a deep pit mine it becomes clear that the noise being created has nowhere to escape making the exposure more severe.
Vibration White Finger (HAVS)
Also known as White finger or Hand Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), this condition is a secondary form of Raynaud’s disease caused by excessive exposure to vibratory tools. Many of the tools used on the coal face cause vibration exposure therefore creating a higher risk for miners to develop the condition. Symptoms typically include numbness in the hands and fingers, blanching of the finger tips and a lack of dexterity.
This condition is compensable in certain situations and it may be easier to claim if vibratory tools have been operated recently.
Pneumoconiosis or “Black Lung”
As late as the mid-20th century nearly 10 per cent of miners in Britain suffered from pneumoconiosis or “black lung” disease. The condition is caused by the inhalation of dust, for miners this dust would be the coal dust produced when cutting the coal face. It was reported in 2013 that there was around 260,000 deaths worldwide, caused by pneumoconiosis .
British Coal and National Coal Board employees affected by pneumoconiosis can claim compensation through the Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis Scheme (CWPS). 
Miners spend a lot of working hours on their knees due to cramped conditions. Eventually this takes its toll on the knee joints causing osteoarthritis. It is so common amongst long serving members of the mining force that the term “Miners Knee” has also been coined by those in the industry.
The closure of Kellingley Colliery appears to have marked the end for the mining industry in England. An industry that has propped up the energy resources of our nation for over a century whilst contributing heavily to the industrial revolution is no more, leaving us importing coal from overseas for the foreseeable future. It has been argued that importing coal is far cheaper and cleaner than to produce from within, whilst further attempts to drive a shutdown of Britain’s 12 remaining coal-fired power stations within the next 15 years in order to halve greenhouse gases.
Figures show that over 164,000 miners have lost their lives working in mines since 1700 and many more have contracted life changing conditions in that time. However, the mining community and it’s spirit has never died. The contribution the mining industry has made to this country is unrivalled with any other and the amount of miners who have worked tirelessly, ignoring danger and illness to provide for the families and the rest of the country will not be forgotten. Although the pits may have died the community, spirit, passion and everything else in between will be remembered by Brits for centuries to come.
If you or anyone else you know has worked as a miner at any time in your life and would like free legal advice about any illness or condition caused by mining, please do not hesitate to get in touch with our friendly legal team by calling 0800 001 4496 or alternatively you can request a call back by filling in the form on the right of this page.