As the country celebrated the coronation of King Charles III, perhaps it is also time to reflect on another significant occasion, the last shift at the last working colliery in the District of Easington. 30 years since the last shift at Easington Colliery. The closure of the last pit in East Durham had a profound impact on the local community, which has had a lasting legacy.

The pit had been an integral part of the area for over 94 years, shaping the local economy, culture, and way of life. Its’ closure in 1993 resulted in the loss of 1,400 jobs and marked the end of an era. It also began a period of economic struggle that continues to this day.

The coal mined in our pits powered the country through the industrial revolution, two world wars, and was the foundation on which the wealth of modern Britain was built. It was also a dangerous and demanding profession, with many miners experiencing ill health due to industrial disease or losing their lives in the pit. The closure of Easington Colliery without any plans for alternative employment was one of the greatest acts of economic vandalism in British history.

The loss of jobs and the loss of wages devastated our local economy and social fabric, leading to an exodus of young people and undermining the high street shops, clubs, pubs and other businesses that were dependent on the community’s principal industry. A period of joblessness and economic decline impacted a community once characterized by full employment and a thriving high street filled with local and family businesses. The Conservative Party chose dole rather than coal as the future for our communities.

The coalfield’s legacy evokes mixed emotions and is both a source of pride and pain. The coal industry sustained our communities by providing employment and income. The bonds forged in the heat and the dark of the coalface, the solidarity and collectivism essential for mutual safety created a shared culture and was a source of pride for the community. However, the industry also scarred our environment, shortened lives, and left a legacy of industrial disease. The pits claimed many lives through industrial accidents and tragically the 1951 Easington Pit disaster, which claimed 83 lives and left the community in shock and mourning.

Moving forward, it is important to work towards solutions to address the ongoing economic and social challenges facing the coalfields. Our environment has been transformed. Turning the Tide project revived our coastline, bringing forward the natural beauty once hidden. However, we have never replaced the employment, business, and industry lost, and we must strengthen the local economy. This will require a more active interest from the government, which has consistently failed to deliver on levelling up.

We will never forget the sacrifices of the miners who toiled in the industry that shaped our community. The Coronation was a historic event in our national history, but the closure of Easington Colliery, which marked the end of an era and had a profound impact on the local community, is a more important shared experience that we should not forget.

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