Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Farewell to Tower Colliery

Tower Colliery in Hirwaun, Rhondda Cynon Taf has finally closed, bringing the history of deep mined coal in Wales to an end. Tower was an example for workers faced with management and government intransigence and fatalism. Green writer Molly Scott Cato wrote of Tower in her book Market Schmarket : Building The Post Capitalist Economy

Wales also has its own unique workers' cooperative which is a source of great pride to its local community: Tower Colliery, in the Cynon Valley near Hirwaun. It is the only worker-owned deep mined in the world and a rare sign of hope to come out of the destructive political battle over coal mining in the UK. Following closure of this modern and well-endowed pit as a result of politically motivated government policy, the miners organized to buy it themselves, 239 of them investing their £8,000 redundancy money to fund the buyout. Since 1995 they have managed the pit themselves with enthusiastic support from the local community. They have now operated with surpluses in each of the past 10 years. Tower is the largest deep mine operating in the South Wales coalfield, employing 300 men, 90 percent of whom are shareholders. In 2002 it was one of Wales' top 300 companies, with a £28 Million turnover, a surplus of £2.7 million and a 26.8 per cent return on capital. It also provides its employees with high-quality employment iin which people feel pride and for which they do not need to sacrifice autonomy or self respect.

The coal at Tower is now worked out, and tragically mining in Wales will now be largely of the particularly environmentally destructive open cast variety, still serving power stations that belch out greenhouse gases without the benefit of Carbon Capture technology. However, the unfortunately destructive nature of current mining should not blind us to the good example set by the Tower miners. They showed that even within the current rapacious neo-liberal market workers control and self management can be made to work. How much more would this be the case in a social and economic environment that was based upon these ideas, with elected bodies and authorities in support. In such a situation one suspects that environmental protection and sustainability might also be more to the fore if the principles of cooperation, mutual aid and interdependence were more important in social and economic life.

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