The government has agreed to fund concessionary fuel entitlements to workers at troubled Kellingley Colliery should a new buyer come in to save the site from closure.
Pit operator UK Coal plans to close the colliery by the end of this year with the loss of 700 jobs.
But the company has submitted two state aid bids to government to extend the life of the pit until 2018.
Business minister Matthew Hancock told parliament yesterday (Wednesday) the government would fund the payments - which are given to miners to help with energy bills - if someone was to take over the pit.
Keith Hartshorne, NUM delegate at Kellingley, said: “This is good news because it’s like the first wedge in the door. It would make it cheaper for anybody to take the pit on which has got to be good news.
“This is a small step towards the ultimate aim of keeping the site open and there are two ways of looking at it. We can either be positive or negative but we’re trying to be positive.”
One of the state aid applications would see the Weeland Road site stay open until 2018 and the other would provide funding for redundancy payments and the retraining of workers.
Mr Hartshorne added: “We’re still going to keep fighting to save the pit open beyond the end of the year and ministers have told us we’ll know one way or another by the end of March.”
Mr Hancock said the state aids bid were still being considered.
He added: “We have been working constantly for over a year to secure the future of UK coal.
“The government is working closely with UK Coal during what we know is an uncertain time for the company and its workers.
“We will make sure that UK Coal’s miners receive their concessionary fuel entitlements and we will continue to work with the company to help them deliver a managed closure of the mines.”