South West Wales

Aberpergwm mine, Glynneath: Walter Energy plans shutdown

The owner of a Neath Valley colliery that employs the largest number of miners in Wales has announced that it is consulting on suspending activities.

American firm Walter Energy says shutdown plans for Aberpergwm Colliery will affect about 270 employees.

Up to 100 may be required to continue working to carry on with development within the upper drift.

The firm blames a fall in demand in the coal industry and a challenging economic environment.

Union representatives say the proposal is a "bitter blow" to workers at the drift mine.

They say the miners were already engaged in a redundancy process that was expected to affect about a third of the workforce.

During the consultation period announced by the firm, most of the employees will remain at home on full pay.

If Walter Energy proceeds with the proposals outlined, early indications are that only a small number of employees would be retained to keep the mine in a safe condition until operations resume.

Aberpergwm is believed to have coal reserves of about 6.8m tonnes.

Its main customer is Aberthaw power station in the Vale of Glamorgan, which buys around 1m tonnes of Welsh coal a year.

RWE npower, which runs the coal-fired power station, said the mine had been supplying it with coal for "many years" and that it hoped its issues could be resolved.

It added that Aberthaw has a large coal stock on site and operations would not be affected by a shutdown at Aberpergwm.

Notice period

Unions say production has halved to around 200,000 tonnes annually over the past couple of years, but this is down to resources being used on drilling the new seam.

Image caption Aberpergwm Colliery near Glynneath is believed to have coal reserves of about 6.8m tonnes

They said the 90-day notice period is likely to start next week.

Aberpergwm first opened in the late 19th Century, and at its height during the 1930s employed more than 1,500.

It closed in 1985 but reopened a year later under private ownership.

The last Welsh deep pit, Tower Colliery in Hirwaun, closed in 2008.

A Welsh government spokesperson said it was "disappointed" with the suspension of operations at Aberpergwm and that Walter Energy's announcement would come as a "blow to the workers, their families and the local community".

It said it is working with Walter Energy to try to support both those facing redundancy and the company.

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