130-year-old Barnsley coking plant to close, with 120 jobs axed

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A Barnsley coking plant which has been open for 130 years and employed 120 people is set to close at the end of this month.

Monckton coking plant in Royston, has been closed by Hargreaves Services after a 45-day consultation period, following ‘a period of unprecedented turmoil in European coke markets’.

The possibility of closure had been described by the GMB union as the ‘final nail in the coffin’ for the coal industry in Yorkshire.

All of the plant’s staff have been hit by the closure, although about 20 per cent will be kept on for ‘at least six months’ to help decommission the plant.

A spokesman for Hargreaves Services told The Star that about a third of staff have already found alternative employment.

He said: “We want to emphasise that the plant itself and the people who work there couldn’t have done more.

“It’s a very sad day. You have a 130-year-old legacy of producing a top-notch product and great people. Unfortunately it’s external influences and circumstances which dictated Monckton’s future.”

A statement issued by the firm added: “The decision to close Monckton, whilst regrettable for the staff and stakeholders, will reduce the level of risk and volatility currently created by the challenge of fluctuating demand and low commodity prices.

“We are pleased to note that the Group faces these challenges with a very strong balance sheet and profitable and cash generative trading, services and transport operations.

“The Board remains committed to developing the Group’s surface mining operations and regards these assets as a source of significant long term value. The actions taken to maintain the maximum amount of operational flexibility around the mining business will ensure that the Group is well placed to ride out the current challenges presented by low international coal prices and quickly benefit from any improvement.

Steve Morris, regional officer of the GMB union, had told The Star after the consultation period was announced: “The shop stewards have been expecting this news.

“The plant is linked to a coalfield that no longer exists. This is a sad day. It marks the final nail in the coffin of the coal industry in Yorkshire.”