South Yorkshire Times, November 25, 1967
The Best Future of Any Coalfield
Lord Robens, Chairman of the Coal Board, with Colliery Management at a Press conference after his visit to Goldthorpe Colliery.
The Best Future of Any Coalfield
Lord Robens, Chairman of the National Coal Board, “sold” the coal industry in most convincing style to local and visiting Pressmen at Goldthorpe-Highgate Colliery on Friday.
He outlined an industry which could and would compete economically on the fuel front, and, in particular, he forecast a bright future for the Yorkshire coalfield.
He said, “Yorkshire has the best future of any coalfield in the country. We could carry on sinking pits in Yorkshire for any amount of time to come. There are enormous reserves, and there is no problem of getting coal out at economic prices.”
Lord Robens stressed that the country could not turn its back on new energy sources, but said so long as reserves held out, mining could compete by producing coal at a competitive price—and that meant “bringing it out at under 3d. per therm.”
He are agreed that concentration of mining on the profitable pits and a consequent reduction of manpower as mechanisation became more efficient was all-important in the economic struggle. But those who planned the rundown on paper alone were pushing things a bit too quickly.
Natural labour wasted, plus an adjustment in recruiting, could produce the right manpower figures without sackings, said Lord Robens. But to cut tonnage by 35 million tons from 155 million in 1971 to 120 million in 1975 was too much to be tackled on top of increased productivity. And productivity certainly could not be reduced if economic coal were to be supplied.
He said, “It is not a new feature to be eliminating high cost pits, but we can only take it at a pace at which we can handle people. We are dealing with communities and we are more sensitive than those who are dealing only with figures. We can only contract at a pace at which we can handle the social problems which arise.
“While we have the confidence of the men we can do a lot, but neither the Union nor we ourselves can control frightened men. So we have to have a reduction in manpower the men can take.”
He forecast that Goldthorpe Highgate will be one of the pit contributing to progress of the industry. With 90% with coal producer power station uses, Goldthorpe was already produced at 2.8d per therm, and moreover said that in five years the pit would be able to bring that figure down still further.
“What of the miners will be responsible for this project. Lord Robens commented. Thought we are no longer asking a man to come into the coal industry because he is strong and can use a pick and shovel. We want craftsman, and no industry produces craftsman better than ours.” If asked by parents if they’re son should go into mining he would tell them, “Make sure your boy takes an apprenticeship.”
Lord Robens spoke of the improvements in the wages system within mining, and said, “I believe ours is a most aggressive approach to wages of any industry here or anywhere in Western Europe.”
And Lord Robens certainty impressed as one of the few men who are capable of visualising a constructive future for mining, while at the same time admitting, that the industry must fight for its existence.