Friday, 18 April 2008

400 jobs boost won’t help revive pit life

It is not often in the past 20 years there has been good news for the miners. Well, unless you’re a miner abroad that is.
In the UK the industry has been in decline, with the government choosing to look abroad because it is cheaper.
But now Harworth Colliery is on course to be reopened. Rocketing fuel prices abroad in the last 12 months mean it is suddenly cheaper to find resources from within.
Being born and bred within a mining community it seems ironic that is now the case, years after they shut our pits because they were not economical enough.
For Harworth itself, it is a new lease of life. A year after it shut, they could start work in autumn in getting it ready to mine. And in three years' time 400 miners could be working down Britain’s biggest mine, at least 20 years of work ahead.
I was fortunate enough to be taken down Harworth pit four years ago, finally getting to see first-hand when my dad and granddads all did.
From huge coal faces to crawling through tiny gaps to witness the coal being extracted. Hot, dusty, dirty. It looked tough.
The camaraderie underground was as strong as I expected. It had to be working in such tough conditions.
But I remember the camaraderie outside the pit back in the 80s. I was only four but I remember the time my old man was out on strike.
I remember afterwards as well. The pit was at the heart of my childhood years when it seemed everyone’s dad worked down the pit.
Blackened rings around the eyelids from the pit dust when they put you to bed after an afternoon’s shift or Friday afternoons when myself and my brother got to go down to Silverhill Colliery with dad to pick up his pay packet.
Sunday afternoons down the local tap room, crammed with folk, just seeing them past the haze of smoke as tales were told while we were in and out with the other kids to play out in the beer garden.
Those were the days when pit life dominated the community in the likes of Huthwaite where I was brought up. Everyone knew everyone.
But when the pits died, so did that life. Once you remove a heart from something, it is hard to replace it.
The pubs are dead and familiar faces few and far between. There is no hiding from the fact it is superb news for Harworth Colliery and those who it will employ.
But now it is just a job, not a way of life for the miners who will travel from not just Harworth but all over Notts and South Yorkshire to take up those jobs.
It might now be cheaper to reopen a pit in England.
Unfortunately, though, long gone is the time when the pit will be the heartbeat of the local community.

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