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Ed Stone

Why Were The Coal Mines Closed:

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Well, this neck of the woods isn't entirely my forte (political discussions drive me mad!), but I'll jump in with a comment or two.

The closure of the mines was, so far as I can tell, both an environmental decision and a political one.

As I said over on the other thread, having an energy industry based largely on coal means having to keep coalminers happy, which means meeting their demands. If the point comes at which their demands are perceived to be unreasonable then you have to make a choice between keeping them sweet or finding alternative sources of fuel.

If keeping them sweet is having a detrimental effect on your policies then a decision has to be made before your political aspirations are ruined. In this respect, closing the mines is a political issue.

However, Margaret Thatcher, as has already been pointed out, was a chemist long before she was a politician and, it would seem, had an interest in environmental issues. The idea that Thatcher wanted the mines closed solely because of their hold over the government is nonsense - there were clearly other benefits, from her point of view, to closing the mines; namely the opportunity to shift to a cleaner form of energy production.

I am not suggesting that the closing of the coalmines and the founding of the IPCC were borne of the same idea, but they were certainly both borne of the same mindset - environmental protectionism mixed with a generous dose of political posturing.

There is still an enormous amount of (largely unwarranted) anti-Thatcherism in this country, so it is made out that closing the coalmines was purely a political move, but it is an unfounded accusation.

As a side-note, it might be interesting to have an anonymous poll to see what proportion of Netweatherites accept that global warming is largely man-made compared with the proportion of Tories and Labourites on the board - is there a socialist leaning towards believing that man is responsible?

Hmmm...

:)

CB

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The basic reason was economics.

And in some cases at least the mines were closed because no-one wanted to work in them :) Would you be able to afford to keep your business going if all your employees decided to take a year's holiday to go off fighting the police and stuff?

Regardless of what might otherwise have happened, the Miner's Strike ensured the mining industry in Britain was doomed. And anyone with half a brain cell in their little toe could see that at the time. Which begs the question what Scargill's motives really were?

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It's been the same in France and in Germany too Bob.. Just that the media forgot to make a song and dance about all that. Just a handful of mines left there too.

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The basic reason was economics.

And in some cases at least the mines were closed because no-one wanted to work in them :D Would you be able to afford to keep your business going if all your employees decided to take a year's holiday to go off fighting the police and stuff?

Regardless of what might otherwise have happened, the Miner's Strike ensured the mining industry in Britain was doomed. And anyone with half a brain cell in their little toe could see that at the time. Which begs the question what Scargill's motives really were?

I agree entirely - I won't write anything more about Scargill, because the swear filter would change most of it...

:)

CB

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I will only believe it was environmental if they stopped burning the coal, however they didn't, the same coal power stations worked, but burnt imported coal instead from Europe.

The closure of the mines was largely political with a big dose of economics as well.

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I studied this during A Level Geography and its basically because companies moved to other countries where labour is cheaper, there are fewer rules and laws to worry about, greater supply of coal, land and labour.

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I will only believe it was environmental if they stopped burning the coal, however they didn't, the same coal power stations worked, but burnt imported coal instead from Europe.

The closure of the mines was largely political with a big dose of economics as well.

There are various reasons for not stopping burning coal, not least being the fact that they couldn't switch instantly from coal to nuclear power, especially considering the public's wariness of nuclear power (you say "nuclear" and the first thing anyone thinks of is a mushroom cloud, for some reason).

Almost a hundred mines were closed by 1992. The last coal power station was built over 20 years ago.I might share your concern, Iceberg, if they had continued to expand the power network with coal plants, but they did not. In fact we have far more gas power plants in the UK than coal power plants.

Perhaps the mine closures were not as environmentally motivated as I make it sound, but to suggest that the environment was not a factor in the decision is nonsense.

CB

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I will only believe it was environmental if they stopped burning the coal, however they didn't, the same coal power stations worked, but burnt imported coal instead from Europe.

The closure of the mines was largely political with a big dose of economics as well.

Only Europe ey?? Well sort of.. A lot of lignite was shipped in from South America to Belgium where it was mixed with European coal as the lignite was too dirty. There were plans to bring the shipments in to Immingham but the docks were too small for the ships and there wasn't available land for a blending site. So we sent coal to Belgium to be blended and then shipped it back into the UK. Good plan and all that........ Not!!

As for the politics, I agree there was a more than healthy dose of it in there, as there was since the 1700's but I think that goes way beyond the scope of this thread...

Economics.... Again I agree. You can't keep pulling stuff out of the ground if it costs more to pull out than you can get when you sell it...

I never said it was a wholly environmental decision but the government of the time were under a lot of pressure from Europe to curb sulphur emissions. This was part of the reason for the closure plan. The homefire market had virtually disappeared due to clean air acts and closure of the steel industry (which produced its own environmental problems) and so no demand for the products most pits were producing.

It's a complicated issue and the media loved it...

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Economics.... Again I agree. You can't keep pulling stuff out of the ground if it costs more to pull out than you can get when you sell it...

On pure budgetary economic grounds I have to agree.

However, the alternative view could be that you could continue pulling the stuff out of the ground uneconomically (or at least a proportion of it) if the alternative is be over reliant on both foriegn sources (at the vaguaries of market forces) for your energy supply.

At that point the "subsidy" for economic mining becomes an "investment" when world energy costs soar and we have no indigenous energy sources available. At this point you can be sure that market forces will not be coming to your rescue!

I'm not trying to sound as if I am unreconstructed "old labour" but there was a reason why these strategic industries were nationalised! I suspect we could well become aware of the lack of strategic, national interest, type thinking that governments of all colours have displayed.

The view has been, quite simply, that we would be so rich as a country from financial and service industries (Howe, Lawson, Brown etc) that we would be able to afford to pay market prices for our energy. So, closing the mines has never really been addressed politically in any sort of national strategic energy policy context. Oh dear........

MM

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On pure budgetary economic grounds I have to agree.

However, the alternative view could be that you could continue pulling the stuff out of the ground uneconomically (or at least a proportion of it) if the alternative is be over reliant on both foriegn sources (at the vaguaries of market forces) for your energy supply.

At that point the "subsidy" for economic mining becomes an "investment" when world energy costs soar and we have no indigenous energy sources available. At this point you can be sure that market forces will not be coming to your rescue!

I'm not trying to sound as if I am unreconstructed "old labour" but there was a reason why these strategic industries were nationalised! I suspect we could well become aware of the lack of strategic, national interest, type thinking that governments of all colours have displayed.

The view has been, quite simply, that we would be so rich as a country from financial and service industries (Howe, Lawson, Brown etc) that we would be able to afford to pay market prices for our energy. So, closing the mines has never really been addressed politically in any sort of national strategic energy policy context. Oh dear........

MM

Sound post, but I do think this is becoming rather political and not strictly about climate change.

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..............I do think this is becoming rather political and not strictly about climate change.

Fair point, but (at the risk of repeating myself from other threads) I hold the view that climate change has, I'm afraid, become politicised!

This spin off thread is about why the coal mines closed. One of the reasons (in my view) is politicians lack of foresight. As others have said, climate change really had nothing to do with their closure.

Only now (with coal-fired stations burning up their EU alloted hours) is climate change legislation coming in to it - and, in time will probably finish off the handfull of UK deep pits remaining.

MM

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It was a vindictive & spiteful political decision typical of Thatcher. Gas became plentiful & she took her opportunity for revenge, destroying the mining communities.

Why else would any forward looking government virtually destroy over 300 years worth of energy supply? Yes, it was uneconomic at the time, but there were plenty of people even then saying, quite rightly, that North sea oil & gas wouldn't last forever.

She launched the "dash for gas", as it was called at the time, wasting valuable & finite resources on power generation, which could easily have been done via coal.

In the process, whole areas of the country were rendered economic wasteland, adding immensely to the vast underclass that we have today.

Environmentalism? Nope. Cold, calculated revenge regardless of the long term cost to the country as a whole? yes.

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But it's still almost always uneconomic now - even with only a handful of the easiest & most productive pits operating - it wasn't just "at the time". Foreign coal imports are substantially cheaper, and will remain so as long as foreign labour costs are lower, their workers more available and more pliable, their safety laws less onerous, their planning procedures re surface-mining less restrictive, their clean-up requirements less strict - all of which will be so for the foreseeable future. The last remnant of the UK's coal mining is done by a company called "UK Coal", and the only reason they ever made a profit was from property-development on the old pit-head sites.

All of which is not to say that a government could not have made a choice to subsidise it in perpetuity for political/strategic reasons if it wanted to. But the reasons - practical, economic and environmental - not to carry on mining were (and are) manifold. Coupled with an undoubted political desire to break the miners (the ultimate symbol of the power of organized labour), it really was a no-brainer. And politically the country was not just ready for it, it was aching for it after the trades union lunacies of the 70s.

I'm sure it contributed to the underclass expansion in old mining areas.....but that seems to have proceeded just as energetically round here, say, where where there was never any mining, and little heavy industry. But the reasons for that - and in particular the complete failure of education policy in the 50 years - is a topic for another thread (and another part of the forum!).

By the way, I think people give Margaret Thatcher too much personal credit for having changed the direction of things. She may have shifted them along a bit more speedily here, but essentially she was just a woman of her time - all the same changes (though sometimes artificially moderated more than here) have occurred all over the developed world. And environmental concerns, both local and global, have certainly been a significant part of that.

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The reforms may not have been so extensive if it were not for the miner's unions and their strikes of the 1970s, when they arguably toppled the Heath government. Then again, if the miner's wages and conditions were better there may not have been any disruptive unions.

Either way though, the miners, through demonstrating they could hold the country hostage to their demands before Thatcher came to power in the 1970s, threatened the power of all subsequent British governments in Westminster.

Those unions had to go. The troublemaker was the Yorkshire one, run by Scargill, the MUN. But getting rid of that one meant essentially destroying British mining.

Thatcher could do it because the miners came from the regions - particularly Yorkshire. Scotland could get oil and gas. Wales kept some pits and got some free enterprise zones, while the Midlands had a car industry.

Thatcher was the Prime Minister who could do all this because her powerbase was in the most populous part of Britain, the South East of England and London.

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