The case for coal mining

The Dewsbury-born head of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) insists the union is “alive and kicking”.

General secretary Chris Kitchen said the NUM was representing miners and their families and communities, despite seeing membership collapse following the closure of most of the country’s pits.

This month marks 30 years since the start of one of the most bitter and violent disputes in British industrial history.

The 1984-85 miners’ strike was the most divisive confrontation of Margaret Thatcher’s 11 years in power, one that pitched striking miners against the police, family members and communities against each other and changed the industrial landscape forever.

Mr Kitchen, whose father worked at Thornhill Colliery, presented commemorative plates to sixteen ex-miners and their partners at a meeting of the Kirklees branch of the public service union Unison last week.

Mr Kitchen said claims the union and its officials were making at the time of the strike had proved to be correct.

He backed calls for an inquiry into the strike, describing what happened as “nothing short of industrial vandalism”.

He said: “There was nothing wrong with the nationalised industry ethos of coal being mined in the UK and being burned in state-owned power stations for use in homes, hospitals, schools and industry.

“Coal is the cheapest form of producing energy, but it has been penalised. The government has been throwing money at wind farms and solar energy which it knows is unreliable.

“We can’t turn back the tide, but why can’t we invest more in carbon capture and storage and have a part-nationalised coal industry working for the good of the country?”

Mr Kitchen firmly believes the coal industry could be “rekindled” and developed into a clean form of energy, cheaper than gas, nuclear or renewables.

Looking back 30 years ago, the NUM leader said it is increasingly clear that Margaret Thatcher was determined to take on the union and “destroy” mining communities.

The NUM is still embroiled in legal action against its former leader Arthur Scargill over legal bills run up by the International Energy and Miners Organisation.