Not sure why it’s been said that the industry was profitable, then–even including subsidies.

Were plans on board for directing coal workers toward another industry?

6 Responses to “Why did Thatcher close England’s coal mines when they were still profitable and then buy foreign fuel?”

  • NooNoo:

    I think it could have been cos she wanted to dismantle all the good things about this country.

  • Mo Fayed:

    You are out of your mind. There wasn’t a profitable coal mining industry in the UK since the 1960’s, which is when most of the South Wales pits were closed.

    They were shut down by Labour’s minister for energy – TONY BENN!

  • garyeandrews:

    Since she’s a politician there can be no definitive answer, even from her own lips, as she might be lying. They usually are.
    Maybe it’s an attempt to store what is available locally, within your control, accessing fuels from elsewhere while they are available. Should those foreign sources become unavailable due to the stupidity of war, or global climate or tectonic disruptions, as the geologic and weather records and history books show has happened before, you can go back into your own stores. If you exhaust them, then…

    It’s like asking why did Thatcher sell the entire military stock of summer uniforms to Saddam Hussein so when British subjects arrived in jungle fatigues for the Gulf War in the 120 degree heat of a desert, their enemy was more comfortably dressed in summer uniforms camouflaged for the desert. It seems it’s all about the money. She also sold him Chieftan tanks.

  • christopher592862:

    I include Wales and Scotland togther with England and say Britains’s coal-fields, sadly, were not profitable. Prior to Mrs T the coal industry was subsidised by the government owning it. The major coal customers eg the power stations were also nationalised and everyone paid a subsidy to the coal industry through their electricity bill. This fed though into prices and the UK was a country with relatively high inflation.
    Mining is a horrible, dangerous and dirty industry which was artificially kept going as a sort of branch of the social services. I know in the ‘romance of coal’ all those Welsh miners go off to the pits happily singing but in reality few would have liked their sons to follow them down there. The industry was recognised as having no significant future in the UK.
    The correct thing to have done would have been to run down the industry in a controlled way as was done in Europe but Thatcher inherited an industry which was far too big because of over-dependence on coal as a prinary fuel for power generation and earlier coal strikes where the NUM (national union of mineworkers) had asserted that mines should only close when the last tonne of coal had been extracted. That led to the situation of men travelling miles underground to work seams only a few inches thick – no matter what the price of oil might be there was no way that could be profitable.
    Foreign fuel was being purchased by the then CEGB (central electricity generating board) prior to the strike as an insurance policy in the event of a strike being called. The technolgy of coal transport had advanced since the war and very large bulk carriers could bring bring 50 thousand tonnes plus in a single cargo from any country in the world where steam coal was cheap because of lower cost operations which were really just like quarrying such as Autralia, South Africa and Colombia. While all this was going on gas and oil were at historically low prices and the problem is that burning coal in a clean and efficient way is always more expensive than burning other fuels. The technology for burning coal has not developed very quickly despite the recurrent talk of new technologies on the horizon and there has not really been a huge influx of steam coal into the UK for power generation and cement-making.
    The other major sort of traded coal – coking coal for steel making – had for a long time been sourced from overseas such as the USA on quality grounds as there is just not enough good quality coking coal left in the UK.
    My view is that the industry had to be reduced because of its cost which was holding back other areas of the economy but that a less confrontational resolution should have been found but of course you had a belligent president of the NUM (Arthur Scargill) who wanted to bring class war onto the streets and a prime minister who was determined not to be brushed aside as had been done to her Tory predecessor Edward Heath some years previously.
    We have had new labour governments for some years now and to the best of my knowledge there has been no attempt to revive any of the closed mines. Sorry but coal mining in this country apart from some very specific mines dedicated to power stations is now history.

  • Ak23566:

    There is some nonsense written on this site.

    In their last full year of operation before the (illegal) pit strike, British Coal made a loss of £485million. That figure excludes the subsidy received by British Coal from the electricity generating companies who were being forced to buy British coal at an above market price simply to keep unprofitable mines open. If this “subsidy” is taken into account, British Coal was losing £727 million per year. That is equal to £1.4 BILLION POUND in todays prices. How on earth you judge this to be “profitable” is beyond me.

    As for the poster who said there were power cuts across the country, let me tell you this… there was not a single power cut in the 11 years Mrs Thatcher was Prime Minister. Not one. In fact, the last power cut in the UK was 1973 when another miners strike caused the power stations to close down. If you think differently, tell me the date it happened.

    The National Coal Board closed down the pits because

    (a) they were losing money and better quality coal could be bought from overseas at a cheaper price

    (b) The National Union of Mineworkers had, for too long, held the county to ransom by threatening strikes every time they did not get their way.

    I wish people would not post answers without knowing the full facts or at least checking the truth before claiming to know what they are talking about.

  • fiona:

    Arthur Scargill is responsible for the closure of England’s coal mines.

    He demanded ever higher wages from an industry that was losing money hand-over-fist for years. Add to this the number of days lost to strikes called by Scargill and it was no wonder that the English coal industry was on its knees.

    Scargill was bleeding this country dry – it took the courage of Margaret Thatcher to stand up to this communist bully.

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