Mining memories as coal unearthed from groundbreaking South Shields energy scheme presented to former miners

A piece of history has been gifted to a group of former miners after being unearthed from the site of an ambitious council project to generate renewable energy for South Tyneside.

By Lisa Nightingale
Sunday, 22nd May 2022, 4:55 am

Members of the Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group were invited along to Holborn Energy Network, near Laygate, South Shields, where they were presented with coal mined from the former St Hilda's Colliery.

The piece, taken from almost 200 metres underground, is the first to have been extracted from the mine since it closed its doors in 1940 as workers move forward with the energy scheme.

Former miner Cllr Ernest Gibson was on site to accept the coal on behalf of the miners.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

Cllr Ernest Gibson is presented with a piece of coal from St Hilda's mine from site manager Lionel Jones, as Cllr Margaret Meling looks on alongside members of Harton and Westoe Miners Banner Group.

He said: “We all worked at Westoe Colliery, and as part of Westoe Colliery set up was St Hilda's. The shaft at St Hilda's was actually used by miners of Westoe Colliery as an escape route.

“This is the first piece of coal that has been extracted from the mine since the pit closed in 1940. It's a piece of history which will now go on display at Harton and Westoe Miner's Welfare.”

During the visit miners were able to share some of their stories with workers on site who are carrying out mining of a different nature on the site.

Lead Member for Economic Growth, Skills and Climate Change Cllr Margaret Meiling said: “It's been lovely for the former miners to come along to the site and see that the mining industry is continuing here in South Tyneside, albeit in a different format. Instead of digging for coal, they are now mining for water.

“The end result is to produce renewable energy that will help the council meet its drive to become carbon neutral by 2030.

“The energy centre will also be accessible for school children to come along and visit where they will be able to find out more about how the project works and the benefits of using renewable energy.”

The Holborn Renewable Energy Network will use a combination of technologies, including solar panels and heat pumps, to harness heat from abandoned flooded mines, as well as from the River Tyne. The hot water would then be used to heat buildings through a network of insulated pipes.

The site is expected to save 2,436 tonnes of carbon a year and save £800,000 a year.

The multi-million pound project is expected to complete its drilling phase, which was supported by £4million worth government funding, by next month, with the feasibility design of the Energy Centre Network and Northern Renewable Centre of Excellence to be completed by Autumn 2022.

It is thought the project will be completed by 2024/2025, subject to funding and planning.

A similar scheme is underway in Hebburn, and a mining heritage group was also met with a blast from the past earlier this year.

It will be used in talks in schools, colleges and museums to help teach people about South Tyneside’s mining past.