Workers at Kellingley Colliery have held top-level government talks in a bid to secure a long-term future for the site – despite fresh fears of an imminent closure.
Members of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) met energy minister Michael Fallon on Monday to try to keep the doomed pit open until at least 2018.
Pit operators UK Coal were working to finalise a £20m closure deal which would see the pit remain open for 18 months.
But Hargreaves Services Plc, which was expected to contribute £5m towards the deal, announced it was no longer willing to help.
The deal, which also includes a £10m state loan and a further £5m from other private investors, would see a “managed closure” of the pit, with gradual job losses between now and the end of 2015.
Keith Hartshorne, NUM delegate at Kellingley, said: “We still feel there is a risk of imminent closure but UK Coal have said they have got money in the bank due to the performances we have been turning in.
“We produced 47,500 tonnes of coal against a target of 38,000 last week and that generates a lot of money which buys us some time.
“A longer term deal is still a better deal for the government as well and we have produced a report that demonstrates that.”
Mr Hartshorne also said he was “very disappointed” that UK Coal had not sought government assistance for a long-term deal, only the 18-month ‘managed closure.’
Andrew Mackintosh, UK Coal’s director of communications, said the firm had spoken to around “half-a-dozen” other potential investors.
He confirmed that a long-term deal had not been discussed with the government as the company’s priority remained preventing the pit from closing.
He added: “It’s extremely disappointing that Hargreaves have pulled out but it’s not devastating.
“We looked at absolutely everything to try and keep the business going as a going concern but the only viable deal was the managed closure deal. Without that in place there would be no pit or company to save.”