UK Coal 'may close Daw Mill colliery'
The owners of the UK's biggest deep coal mine are considering closing the colliery in north Warwickshire, putting 800 jobs at risk.
UK Coal is consulting on shutting Daw Mill in Arley under plans to restructure the business.
The mine could be closed by early 2014 when current coal panels will be exhausted.
Andrew Mackintosh, from UK Coal, said Daw Mill could close but it may not be a permanent closure.
UK Coal said the mine had "considerable long-term resources" but production was 175,000 tonnes behind budget.
It said an increase in production and a fall in operating costs in coming months could secure its future, but the mine would only be sustainable under a "lower risk operating model".
The pit has had productivity problems in recent years, including a four-month gap in production which cost it £75m two years ago.
The company recently agreed a deal with unions which included a new shift system and a two-year pay freeze.
Mr Mackintosh said "clear targets" would be set for the mine.
"If they can achieve them, then the mine should have life beyond that date but if they can't, we are looking at a closure date," the communications director said.
The company said it would be in discussion with the management and workforce under part of a "consultation process".
"We've had the first meetings with the trade unions, very supportive, obviously everyone wants this to succeed," Mr Mackintosh said.
"So it's just a matter now of all 800 of us here making sure we can deliver what needs to be delivered to push that life beyond 2014."
Dave Meuse, Union of Democratic Mineworkers (UDM) branch secretary at Daw Mill, said: "The unions at Daw Mill are fully committed to assist UK Coal in providing a long-term future for Daw Mill."
He said the UDM had about 430 members working at the mine.
UDM area secretary Tom Gay said closing the mine was not an "absolute definite, there are options open".
"We are in a bad way with production but if we can get up to 40,000 or 50,000 tonnes a week then it changes things," he said.
"It's mainly geology that's against us.
"It's a very expensive mine to operate. At the moment UK Coal don't have a lot of leeway but they're doing the right thing by consulting us."
Nuneaton MP Marcus Jones, whose constituency includes part of Daw Mill, said it was "very disappointing" that its future was in doubt.
"I sincerely hope that UK Coal can work together with the workforce and unions, and myself and my colleague Dan Byles MP, can also work with the company, workforce, unions and the government to see what we can do to secure the future of Daw Mill," he said.
Dan Byles, MP for north Warwickshire and Bedworth, said the prospect of Daw Mill closing or being mothballed was "very worrying".
"Right now the Daw Mill employees and their families are facing a difficult and uncertain future," he said.
People living in the nearby towns and villages of Dordon, Old Arley and Mancetter said the mining community had changed and workers travelled from further afield.
Old Arley resident Robert Copestake said: "It's bound to affect Fillongley [a village nearby] that depends on passing trade.
"These were mining villages but there's hardly any left."
The site is one of only five UK Coal deep mines in the country and the company said it was the single largest coal producing mine in the UK.
UK Coal returned to profit earlier this year for the first time in four years, but chairman Jonson Cox recently said Daw Mill was the greatest risk to output this year due to a change in the coalface.