Company plans to mine a billion tonnes of coal off Wales- without miners

The debate over the use of coal in Britain is heating up. Reuters reports a British company, Clean Coal UK, is planning to mine an estimated billion tonnes of coal off the Welsh coast using underground coal gasification.

The technique converts coal into a synthetic gas that can be used for power and other uses.

In a video, Clean Coal UK CEO Rohan Courtney says recent advances in directional drilling would makes the technology economical.

The plant is slated to open within months, however, it will not employ miners, disappointing those who might see it as a means to revitalize the British coal mining industry, which in its heyday employed some 200,000 workers.

The industry was targeted for reforms by the Thatcher government that led to widespread strikes in the 1980s, and has since been in steady decline.

Proponents of coal gasification say it produces syn-gas underground and therefore produces minimal emissions, however critics of the technology say it's not certain whether gasification makes the production of coal any cleaner.

Image of the Welsh coast off Swansea is by Shutterstock.

Front-page image of the Hatfield Main Colliery, which started producing in 1921 and has been run under various companies since British Coal ceased operations in 1994, is by Paul Glazzard.