Friday 16 September 2011

The Price Of Coal

The day started with the tragic news that one of the four missing miners  trapped within the Gleision Colliery near Pontardawe, South Wales has been found dead.

All four men that were trapped have been found. They did not survive.

My thoughts and prayers are with their families and friends

The Gleision is just over a mile away from my house as the crow flies. The whole area is riddled with abandoned coal workings.

This is just some history, and a small tribute to all those who have lost their lives.

Gleision Colliery
Cilybebyll nr Rhos
South Wales

This small pit works coal under a very steep hillside above the banks of the river Tawe in Cilybebyll near Rhos. When German mines photographer, Thomas Imgrund visited the area for the second time in 2001, he found Gleision to be one of just four examples Welsh small mines. Whereas in 1992 there were around 85 of these amazing pits operating, there were only nineteen by 1997 and into 2003. Only three of these mines - Gleision, Nant Hir, and Blaentillery No.2, have somehow managed to survive.
There is a sketchy document which talks of a Gleision Colliery in Godre'graig on an NUM organisation website. This was dated 1962, but I am not sure whether it exactly the same mine. However, the present site was certainly in production by 1980 and seems to have worked continuously ever since.
The Present
Access is by two arch girder drifts. The main drift provides the rail connection, drainage, ventilation and access for the miners. The second is not rail connected and is at right angles to the main drift. It is used for emergency egress only. They utilise a 2' gauge rail system, powered by a diesel haulage engine. Hand tramming is also used to move trams from the drift mouth to the two tipplers. Surface installations consist of a generator, mess hut, and haulage engine house, stores, coal screen and loading bay, and several old caravans.
The Workings Following the main drift further inbye, the roadways are timber supported, and lead to the current workings, deep under the hillside. They work a modified pillar and stall system in the 2'6" Ynisarwed seam, and the coal face workers must work kneeling or laying down. The coal is cut by drilling and blasting within a stall and removing the fractured coal with picks. It is then hand filled by the miners onto a panzer converyor running down the back of the face, which takes it to the loading point in the main gate.
Here, another miner controls the conveyors' flow into a journey of drams. When a journey of six drams is full, it is hauled from the mine and the coal processed on the surface, and the drams let back down to be refilled.

Manpower & Production
In 2001, there were about seven men at Gleisoion, including the mine owner who himself worked underground. It is a safety lamp mine with sever water problems which require the use of a powerful sump pump. The combined problems of water and gas can cause disruption to production and development. Production was about 200 tonnes per week.

We do not have access to a formal reserves statement for Gleision. The colliery owner is finding it difficult to hire fifteen tonne lorries for road haulage, which make six journeys to the pit every day. He recently applied for permission to change his haulage arrangements to twenty tonne lorries, making three trips per day, but this was refused. The fact that the colliery has managed to survive the almost complete destruction of the S.Wales small mines industry must surely mean that the pit is currently in a sound economic situation.

 The Price Of Coal

Working Man

The Price of Coal
As you sit before the grate and stare into the fire,
Don't blame the miner for the price of coal,
Of your complaints I tire.
I shall tell you about the price of coal and the reason why
You sit at home complaining the price of coal is high.
My homeland once so beautiful like a virgin in her prime,
The mountains wild and rugged, undisturbed by the march of
But now my homeland has been ravished and its resources
The price of coal was far too high, men crippled, killed and
The price of coal was far too high, from Wales they tore the
Deep within its stinking pits Wales was ripped apart,
And all to line the pockets of coal owners far away.
The price of coal was far too high
But the Welsh were made to pay.
Anthony Davies
Port Talbot ©


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Thank you for this. I didn't know the history, despite being Welsh. My thoughts are in my home land today and my heart goes out to these men and their families - and to you, because I know what has happened affects you deeply. x

CherryPie said...

A lovely tribute it was such sad news to hear of the bodies.

Very interesting history too, thank you.

Beyond Survivor said...

Thank you both for your comments.

It is a very sad valley tonight, I try and be thankful that not all seven were killed.

The price of coal has always been too high.

Patricia Singleton said...

Sending prayers to the survivors and the families of those who didn't survive.

Liz Hinds said...

So much bravery and so much tragedy in the history of Wales.


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