Gleision mine deaths: Water always present at site, court told

Gleision mining victims Garry Jenkins, 39, Philip Hill, 44, David Powell, 50, and Charles Breslin, 62, were killed in the mine

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Water was always present at a Swansea Valley mine where four men died after it flooded in 2011, a court has heard.

David Powell, 50, Charles Breslin, 62, Philip Hill, 44, and Garry Jenkins, 39, died as up to 650,000 gallons of water filled the Gleision mine, near Pontardawe, after explosives were used.

Manager Malcolm Fyfield and the mine's owners MNS deny manslaughter charges.

But former owner Raymond Thomas told Swansea Crown Court water would "come in through the floor and the roof".

Mr Thomas, who owned the mine from 1998, said miners would always wear waterproofs.

He told the court he had to put a pump in place when mining in the main drift because water from the old workings flowed in.

"It was never dry, the only way we could work down there was by diverting the water," he said.

The mine was mothballed in 2005 after the price of coal fell but it reopened in 2008.

He told the court he returned to Gleision as a temporary mine manager in March or April 2011 because the manager at the time was suffering from health problems.

He carried out the role until July 2011, when Mr Fyfield took over.

Mr Thomas told the jury he had spoken to Mr Fyfield about problems with water in that part of the mine.

He said "all the workings were always full (of water)".

The court has previously heard that Mr Fyfield was one of seven men working in the mine at the time of the explosion and survived after he crawled out through sludge and dirt.

The explosion had been carried out on as part of the mining process and the water swept through a closed-off section of the mine, the court has previously been told.

Mr Thomas was also asked about comments written on a mine plan which explained a mines surveyor was not able to access parts of the mine during an inspection.

The court had previously heard that surveyor Lee Reynolds gave up his job at Gleision almost a decade before the deaths occurred because he was stopped from doing his job and considered Mr Thomas to be "dishonest".

Mr Thomas said in one case he had prevented Mr Reynolds from accessing one part of the mine "for his own safety" because the roof had fallen in overnight.

Mr Thomas described the scene as a "shambles", adding the roof had sunk in another stall.

Asked about the conditions at Gleision, Mr Thomas said: "As small mines go, they were pretty good."

Jurors have previously been told a council official reported concerns about the Gleision mine twice, in 2009 and 2011.

Mr Fyfield denies manslaughter through gross negligence, while the mine's operators MNS deny corporate manslaughter.

The trial continues.

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