THE mood is far from festive in a tinsel-festooned miners' social club near the UK's last remaining deep-coal pit.

The closure of Kellingley Colliery on Friday will sound the death knell for the UK mining industry.

And while most are resigned to their fate, the thought of an uncertain future and a life without the pit is enough to bring even the most hardened of miners close to tears.

Speaking at the Kellingley and Knottingley Miners' Welfare Scheme Social Club, in West Yorkshire, Keith Poulson said the miners have been anticipating the closure since it was announced two years ago.

The branch secretary for Kellingley NUM said: "It has been like being a convicted prisoner on death row.

"And now it's got to December, and we're in the last week, we can basically hear the governor coming down the corridor and he's about to put the key in the cell door to take you to meet your fate."

He continued: "The morale of the men is absolutely rock bottom, to be thrown on the industrial scrapheap.

"Some people have worked there 20, 30, 40, even 50 years. To be actually told, two years since, that Kellingley would be closing came like a bolt of lightning.

"Now we're approaching that final date, it's a mixed emotion. They've got anger, frustration and fright to a certain extent because, like myself, they started from school and worked in the industry for all those years.

"Since it was announced, I feel like somebody's stuck a pin in me and I'm eventually deflating. I feel completely let down and deflated."

Maurice Kent, an NUM official, added: "Some of the men seem to have recognised the fate that they're going to be made redundant, they do understand that times are going to be very hard once they've finished. Other people, I don't think some of them have actually grasped what the future holds for them."

Mr Poulson, 55, has worked in the mining industry for 39 years, starting at South Kirkby Colliery in January 1977 before moving to Kellingley in 1988.

During that time, he has seen out the miners' strike of the mid-1980s and, in his NUM role, had to visit the families of three colleagues to inform them of their tragic deaths at the pit.

He said: "One of the worst things ever that a man could have to do is go and tell a wife and kids that their husband or their father's not coming home because he's been tragically killed at a mine.

"It's one of the hardest jobs I've ever had to do."

And now, he says he will walk away with just a statutory redundancy package and have to live off a reduced pension for the rest of his life.

Mr Poulson said he is "quite sure" the closure could have been avoided and wants to meet Prime Minister David Cameron to argue the case for the miners.

He said nearby Drax power station will continue to burn coal but now the coal will be imported from overseas, rather than from Kellingley - just seven miles away.

"That's what people can't get their heads round," he said. "This is why people are so sad and angry."

Another reason for sadness is the feeling that the tight-knit Kellingley Colliery family is on the verge of a break-up.

The NUM committee did not want to mark the closure - "we don't think it's an occasion we should celebrate" - but two miners' wives have arranged a march, which will take place on Saturday afternoon and is likely to be attended by miners from around the country.

The march will be followed by an event at the social club.

Mr Poulson said: "It's an occasion where the miners will say goodbye, probably for the last time."

Both Mr Poulson and Mr Kent will stay on in their roles at the NUM for the immediate future "to make sure our members are OK".

Standing outside the mine, barely visible in the fog and drizzle, in front of a sign which reads "Kellingley Colliery: caring for the future", Mr Kent said: "It's about other people. I'll always be here, whenever people need support."

The decline of coal: 

  • 2,581 - the number of deep mines producing coal in 1915.
  • 9 - the number of deep mines producing coal in 2015. When Kellingley Colliery closes, just eight will remain. According to data supplied to the Press Association by the UK Coal Authority, five of these eight mines are operational but have a very small staff and produce little coal. The remaining three are closed but can be reopened if necessary and still have a licence to produce coal.
  • 635 - people employed by underground mines, as of September 2015. When the UK mining industry was nationalised in 1947, almost three-quarters of a million people (705,500) worked for underground mines.
  • 1.16 million - the total number of miners in Britain in 1922, the highest for any year in history.
  • 3,236 - average number of deep mines producing coal each year between 1893 and 1902, the highest number on record. Coal was first mined from deep pits in Britain as early as 1853. An average of 72 million tonnes of coal were produced each year in the middle of the 19th century.
  • 292 million - tonnes of deep mined coal produced in 1913, the highest for any year on record. The total remained above 200 million until 1943.
  • 707,700 - people employed by coal mines in 1947, the year the industry was nationalised. Some 99.7% of these worked underground.
  • 18,600 - people employed by coal mines in 1994/5, when the industry was privatised. A total of 81% worked underground.
  • 29% - proportion of miners working underground as of September 2015.
  • 42 million - tonnes of coal imported into the UK in 2014. This was three and a half times the amount of coal produced within the UK (12 tonnes).