Major fire shuts Daw Mill for at least three months

A MAJOR fire broke out underground at under-threat Warwickshire coal mine Daw Mill on Friday.

The mine will now be closed for at least three months, owner UK Coal says.

The fire broke out just after 3.30pm at a depth of 540m and a distance of 8km from the bottom of the main shaft, and rapidly took over the tailgate area.

As a precaution, UK Coal safely evacuated 92 underground workers from the mine. 

A specialised team of 14 underground workers, trained in fire fighting, remained at the scene to extinguish the fire. However, at around 7.30pm due to the increasing severity of the situation, it became clear to mine management that all remaining miners should be evacuated from the mine. 

Safe evacuation was completed at 9pm.

In an attempt to stem the fire, ventilation to the mine was switched off at 10.45pm to reduce oxygen levels and attempt to starve the fire.

UK Coal says there is no risk or impact from the incident to residents living close to the site or above the mine.

A core team will remain at the mine to bring the situation under control and achieve an orderly closedown of operations. It is not expected that the mine will be back to operational status in less than three to six months.

Daw Mill’s future has been the subject of uncertainty over the last year. In March 2012 UK Coal announced a restructuring was needed to safeguard the entire business.

And in December the firm completed a restructuring which it said would safeguard 2,500 jobs.

Chairman Jonson Cox said the move was a “final chance” for the company’s mining operation to adopt ways of working that make the business viable.

The fire puts that viability further in doubt, at least as far as the local pit is concerned.  The company will consult over coming weeks with the workforce on the implications for them.

Commenting on the fire, Kevin McCullough, chief executive of UK Coal, said “This fire is on a scale not seen for decades. I want to thank everyone in the mine that day for their professionalism and commitment.”