BRITISH Coal has denied that Whittle Colliery is to lose one of its faces at the cost of more than 300 jobs.
The denial follows information provided to the Gazette by trade union sources that the pit is in deep trouble.
A British Coal spokesman told the Gazette: “We deny it categorically. Both the faces are continuing. There will not be job losses of several hundred.”
Miners at Whittle Colliery do feel they are living on borrowed time after a year striving for a new face after huge geological problems.
Last month, British Coal admitted that Whittle is one of three pits “at risk” in the North East coalfield as a result of a price-cutting deal which has been struck with the Central Electricity Generating Board (CEGB).
The North East coalfield will be hardest hit by the new deal as 70 per cent of coal mined in the region is sold to the CEGB.
Under the deal, the CEGB will be able to buy its coal at much lower prices.
This will mean a loss of around £28million for the coalfield this year which could put the break-even targets at some pits in doubt.
Whittle, along with Ashington and Murton in County Durham, already exceed the production costs level which British Coal considers acceptable on a regular basis.
And last week, county councillors expressed concerns at increased opencast mining and the run-down of the county’s remaining pits, including Whittle.