The last deep pit coal mine in the Untied Kingdom, UK Coal’s KellingleyColliery, will shut down operations before Christmas, marking the end of deep pit coal mining in the U.K.
Coal mines have been closing around the world in the past year, from the U.S. to South Africa to the U.K. as prices plunged. But in no country has the industry witnessed such a dramatic fall from grace as in the United Kingdom, where coal production was once seen as the backbone of the nation’s industrial economy, the fuel for everything from steamboats to power plants, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Deep-mine coal production in the U.K. hit an all-time low of 3.7 million metric tons in 2014, down from a peak of 217 million tons in 1954, according to the U.K.’s Department of Energy and Climate Change. At the time, about 1,330 deep-pit mines accounted for 95 percent of the U.K.’s coal production.
That number will hit zero with this month’s closing of U.K. Coal’s Kellingley Colliery, which has been operating since 1965. A small number of “open-cast” surface mines in the U.K. will continue to produce.
The Kellingley mine produces 8,000 tons of coal a day and employs 451 people, down from more than 2,000 in the 1970s, the company said. An estimated 30 million tons of coal will remain stranded in the ground.
“The world has moved on,” said David Cross, a librarian at the National Coal Mining Museum for England. “But it’s a change in the entire basis of the world economy, not merely in this country.”
The U.K. already imports most of the coal that fuels its power plants, with imports first surpassing local production in 2001. Russia has been the biggest beneficiary of the U.K.’s increased appetite for imported coal, providing 46 percent of its thermal coal in 2014, according to the U.K. government. Coal supplies roughly one-third of the energy for electricity generation in the U.K., with natural gas and renewable sources making up the rest.