The future of hundreds of jobs at Maltby Colliery hang in the balance after it was announced that redundancy notices will be served on miners.
Around 540 workers at the pit are to be issued with 90-day statutory notice by owners Hargreaves Services.
Bosses are awaiting the results of a detailed study of geological, financial and health and safety risks at the colliery, which was hit by water, oil and gas leaking into new workings earlier this year.
The group expects to get the results of the study later this month - and says starting redundancy consultations does not mean Maltby’s fate is sealed.
Hargreaves has previously said it would not attempt to mine the T125 panel if the presence gas, water and oil put miners at risk, but warned abandoning the panel would result in the pit being mothballed or closed. The group said it would probably be uneconomic to switch production to a later panel due to the long face gap entailed, and that delays between finishing work on the current panel and starting work on the new panel could cost it up to £16 million.
Community leaders and politicians said that they hoped the company could find a positive way forward for its workers.
In a statement released this week Hargreaves Services said: “The company will shortly begin consultation regarding potential redundancies.”
“This consultation process will last for a minimum of 90 days. Initiating this process is considered to be prudent business practice and does not indicate that a decision on the future of Maltby has been taken. The relevant Government department is being notified.”
“The board of Hargreaves still expects to receive reports later in October that will advise on the geological, financial and health and safety risks associated with the T125 panel at the mine.”
“The decision by the board on the future of the colliery will be based on the conclusions of these reports.
Rother Valley MP Kevin Barron, who worked at Maltby for 18 years, said he hoped the colliery could continue.
He said: “It is disappointing to learn about the geological problems at the pit, although they are not unusual in coal mining. No decision has been made yet so we will have to await the findings of the reports, which I hope will recommend that the colliery can continue to produce coal.”
A Rotherham Council spokesman confirmed it was aware that notices of potential redundancies were being considered by colliery owners.
He said: “Although we are obviously disappointed to hear about the notices, we hope the company will find a positive way forward to avoid any job losses.”
“If the colliery does decide to go ahead with any redundancies we will of course do all we can to support the company and its workers.”
Maltby is one of just five UK deep mines still in operation.