PARKSIDE Colliery closed 20 years ago this week bringing to end the illustrious history of mining in the Lancashire coalfield in huge controversy.
The coal cutting galleries of one of the most modern pits in the country – if not Europe – were still busy under Burtonwood and experts had calculated that its 100 million tonnes plus reserves would stretch well into the next century.
It was, however, sacrificed on the altar of the dash for gas but at its peak more than 1,600 men worked there.
Unbelievably, such was the haste to blow up the famous winding towers by the side of the M6 motorway, there was no attempt to retrieve any of the brand new face equipment when the mine was closed.
British Coal were keen to remove any focal point for the miners wives’ protest at the Parkside pit gates – lead by NUM leader Arthur Scargill’s wife Anne – to continue to rally around.
Cutters and six miles of conveyors plus 10 miles of roadways are still there, deep underground, crushed by rising floor levels and roof falls, even today.
Fiddlers Ferry power station which was its principle customer, still burns coal as one third of Britain’s electrical power is still generated from coal fired power stations.
As Lancs National Union of Mineworkers branch prepare to mark the end of mining in the area, it has a particularly poignancy for current branch chairman Billy Kelly. He was a miner there when the death sentence for the pit was announced.
Mr Kelly said that most of the ex-Parkside miners remain angry about the decision to prematurely snuff out the safety lamp lights of such a comparatively young and productive British pit as Parkside.
He said: “The full effects caused by the mass pit closure programme can be felt today in the price people are having to pay for their energy needs, with gas and electricity prices at an all time high.
“Moreover, the Government’s own figures show that every winter 20,000 people in Britain die of cold related issues.
“But the very industry that could provide the heat and warmth needed to sustain life for many of these people has been closed down and the country’s energy needs put into the hands of foreign powers with the reliance now on expensive, imported coal.”