One of Britain’s last standing coal miners, UK Coal Holdings, is shutting down its remaining underground operation next month, marking the end of a 300-year industry that once employed over a million workers.
“We are the last of the dinosaurs,” Chris Jamieson, one of the miners that will lose his job in a few weeks’ time, told The New York Times.
While open cast coal extraction will continue in the country, the closure of Kellingley Colliery in northern England marks the end of underground mining, an industry that helped make Britain an industrial power and top exporter.
Over 20% of the nation’s energy needs are still met by coal, which is mostly imported. Since 2000, U.K. power generators Electricite de France SA to RWE AG have bought more of the fuel from abroad, where coal from Australia to Colombia is cheaper, according to the Confederation of U.K. Coal Producers.
Britain’s coal industry is not alone. The global sector is suffering from rock bottom prices, oversupply, and weak demand.
Metallurgical coal prices have dropped below $90 per metric ton, their lowest levels in a decade, pushing producers to slash output. Thermal coal, mostly used for power generation in emerging markets, is trading at $42 per short ton, as countries try to switch power generation to lower-emission options like natural gas or renewables.
Investment bank Goldman Sachs said in September the commodity would never again get enough traction to lift it out of its slump and warrant investment in the sector.
(Read more at The New York Times’ feature)