South West Wales

181 to jobs go at Unity Mine, say administrators

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Media captionAdministrators Cork Gully LLP said with the right investment the mine "will be able to secure long-term viability"

Administrators appointed to the largest drift mine in Wales have announced 181 workers have been made redundant.

Unity Mine, near Neath, filed for administration three weeks ago.

Administrators Cork Gully LLP said with the right investment the mine "will be able to secure long-term viability" and added they had received a high level of inquiries from potential investors.

About 30 staff will stay on maintaining the mine but Neath MP Peter Hain said the redundancies were a "savage blow".

Before applying for administration, Unity said there was only work for 66 of its 220 staff but that the workforce was being kept on "for now".

A statement from Cork Gully LLP on Thursday said: "Over the past few months the mine has commenced an operational transition from continuous mining, which was not economically viable due to prevailing geological conditions, to long wall mining.

"During this time, limited staff shifts have been undertaken providing jobs for some 65 employees on a shared and rotating basis to recover redundant equipment.

"This phase of equipment recovery and rehabilitation is now substantively complete.

"For the company to implement its new mining plan it will need to purchase long wall mining equipment, for which funding is not currently available."

The mine is subject to a care and maintenance programme to ensure required safety standards are met.

Mr Hain said: "This is a savage blow to the miners, their families and our local community.

"The mineworkers union, myself and the Welsh government have worked very hard to try and save the jobs but, depressingly, to no avail.

"I have asked the administrator to keep the 25 apprentices on along with the care and maintenance staff so that these miners of the future can maintain their training course accreditations without which their prospect of becoming fully qualified will be badly damaged."

Share shifts

Business Minister Edwina Hart had said the firm was being offered assistance.

But she said there were wider financial pressures and challenges which had led to the company going into administration.

Wayne Thomas from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) previously said he believed there was a future for the mine, and that there was between 10 and 20 years of work left in the mine.

In recent months, the miners were told there was not enough work for everyone.

Staff offered to share shifts between all of the workers which meant they got on average a quarter of their previous pay.

It was seen as a way of safeguarding the pit's future, but it is understood some workers have had to leave their jobs and have taken up posts as far as way as Kent and Manchester.

The vast majority of work was at two pits in the Neath Valley at Unity and Aberpergwm which is currently closed.

Unity Mine opened in 2007 with reserves of up to 90 million tonnes of coal.

It is a drift mine, which means that miners can walk into it from the surface rather than having to be transported down to the coal seams via a lift in a shaft.

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