Weighing up the pros and cons

The debate about the impact of mining will run and run.

Those of us who were brought up in a coalfield area will be well aware of the affect mining had on communities; the environment and employment.

The South Derbyshire coalfield where I lived was no exception, as mining and textiles were the mainstay of the local economy.

As a youngster I accepted it as part and parcel of our daily lives. The roads and railway lines were badly affected by subsidence. Uneven ground meant that trains running between Chesterfield and Nottingham were reduced to 10 mph near my house. Our house tilted over a degree or two, cracks appeared and the wall-paper dropped off the wall. During thunderstorms drains and sewers were blocked and my lasting memory is of raw sewage flowing down our back path. My father claimed it did wonders for the roses. Some houses were more badly affected and had to be bolted together or had heavy timbers propped up against exterior walls. The NCB did pay out some compensation, but it was never to enough to cover all of the cost of repair.

I saw coal miners returning home blackened from head to toe, almost bent double after spending a life time cramped in shallow coal seams. The landscape of the heavily-faulted Derbyshire valleys was changed dramatically, with man-made mountains (pit heaps) dominating the horizon. The roads were bordered by black coal dust dropped by the many passing over-loaded coal lorries.

Eventually the deep mining was replaced by open-cast, with large earth-moving equipment working around the clock, creating noise, and in summer a great deal of dust.

And so it was, but at the same time the villages were vibrant communities. There was employment, given that some people had extremely harsh working conditions. The Miners Welfare provided a range of community activities for all ages, including sporting teams as well as the annual trip to “Skeggy” (Skegness). Of course, there was the colliery brass band. In many respects the Miners Welfare alongside the local churches were the cornerstones of our close-knit community. When the mining finally finished, then restoration took place. The pit heaps were reclaimed and made in to public recreation areas, parks etc. The deep holes left over from open cast mining were flooded and became habitats for wild life.

Will potash mining in the North York Moors National Park have the same initial environmental impact that coal-mining had? I doubt it. Coal was a necessary resource at that time for industry and our homes. Potash apparently is in demand world-wide and the UK economy is in need of a great deal of help right now.

As much as I support the idea of the preservation of places of outstanding natural beauty, sometimes you have to weigh up the pros and cons, particularly if this new development will stimulate the local and national economy.

Rob Plackett, Eskdale Road, Whitby, North Yorkshire.