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UK: North East Marks the End of an Era as the Last Ever Shipment of Coal Sails From the River Tyne



February 19, 2021 - The North East will mark the end of an era on Thursday as the last ever shipment of coal sails from the River Tyne.

Hargreaves Services, which had been one of the UK’s last remaining coal mine operators, is set to export the final cargo from its Durham coalfield this week as “the world moves on from coal”.

The vessel, named ‘Longwave’ was due to sail from Port of Tyne at around 10pm, carrying 12,000 tonnes of coal bound for Belgium.

The coal was extracted at the Fieldhouse surface mine, east of Durham, where a total of 500,000 tonnes was mined between 2018 and 2020.


 Hargreaves loading the last coal from the Tyne onto Longwave ship at the Port of Tyne, South Shields

Image: Newcastle Chronicle



The journey marks the final chapter in the story of coal mining in the North East - an industry that has been part of life for generations.

It was branded a "very sad day" by Northumberland MP and former National Union of Mineworkers president Ian Lavery, who said many former mining communities still hadn't recovered from pit closures.

Coal mining was a substantial industry even in medieval times. At its peak in 1913 it provided over 250,000 jobs and produced 56 million tonnes of coal a year, from over 400 mines.

The North East is famous around the world for its mining heritage, and has been exporting coal since the 13th century.

The world-renowned phrase “coals from Newcastle ” was born out of this rich industrial heritage.

But the closure of many of the mines in the region and the world's reducing use of coal as a fuel has led to the North East moving further and further away from its mining roots.

The steady closure of coal fired power stations has led to the significant reduction in demand for coal in the UK, although it is still used widely in many key industries including steel, glass, cement and lime production.

Last month Hargreaves Services, which has historically transported coal mined from around the North East, announced that the last shipment of coal from Newcastle would leave the region in February.

Hargreaves has been slowly moving away from the coal industry and recently sold off the last of its coal stock to its German division. It has said it will no longer be buying and shipping coal in the UK.

The company said that while it “remains proud of its history, it looks forward to developing in the UK’s low carbon economy”.

Gordon Banham, chief executive of Hargreaves, said: “The mining, processing, handling and transporting of coal has been at the heart of Hargreaves’ business for a generation but the world is moving on from coal and Hargreaves is moving with it.

“We ceased coal mining in July 2020 and with this last shipment from Newcastle, we have now concluded all material coal related revenue activities. This marks a major transformational step for the Group.

“We have unlocked the capital from our coal business, and we now look to build sustainable growth across our remaining revenue streams.”

Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery said: "Who would have thought that we’d ever see the day when our great region would end its relationship with its greatest asset, and black gold, coal, would cease production and now exportation.

"Coal powered the industrial revolution and provided the economic stimulus for towns and villages throughout the whole of the North East.

"Our mining communities are very proud of the role they played to rebuild the Nation following WWII and we should never forget the sacrifice many men and their families made in pursuit of coal.

"Many former mining communities haven’t recovered from the mass closure of the coal industry and continue to struggle in today’s world.

 "Coal is being produced and burned in large amounts all across the globe and will do for many years to come. Sadly, the UK failed to invest in clean coal technology which would greatly reduce emission levels and see the demise of this great industry.

"It’s a very sad day to see the end of coal exportation from the Coaly Tyne. Let’s salute and remember the efforts of all who worked and were associated with the industry, and who knows what the future might bring. "

In August 2020 the Bradley Mine in County Durham closed for good after plans to expand the site were rejected.

The coal mine was one of the last remaining in England and had operated for almost 200 years.

The site had been operated by Banks Mining, who at the time warned that 250 skilled jobs had been put at risk by the mine's closure.

Banks has also tried to open mines in Newcastle and Northumberland in recent years, but its applications have been refused.