Coal industry in the UK - Statistics & Facts

The coal industry has a storied history in the British Isles, dating as far back as Roman Britain. During this period the Roman’s made use of the island’s major coalfields, burning the material to forge weapons. It was even used in the making of jewelry. By the time the industrial revolution had arrived it was a major industry, with the demand for coal increasing significantly to power the steam engines of the British Empire.

To this day coal continues to be a vital source of energy worldwide , but it has fallen massively out of favor in the UK. This fall has coincided with the rise of renewable energy sources such as wind power.

In 1913, the production of coal in the UK peaked at 292 million metric tons. Since then it has declined massively, and by 2018 the UK’s output of coal had fallen to just three million metric tons, a staggering drop for what was once a leading nation in the industry. A noticeable slump during this period occurred in 1984 during the miner’s strikes. Major industrial action was taken to shut down the industry in a bid to avoid pit closures on economic grounds. However, the number of colliery closures has increased dramatically since then.

With the number of pit closures increasing each year, employment figures have inevitably fallen. During the industry’s peak years there were as many as 1.2 million workers – approximately 1-in-20 of the nation’s workforce. Despite declines in the following decades there were still more than 200,000 workers in 1980. However, within 10 years the number of jobs had fallen to below 50,000. By 2018 there were less than 1,000, and these figures will continue to fall in the coming years.

In 2015 the UK government announced it would be phasing out the use of coal for energy by 2025 in a bid to cut emissions. In 2020 this date was brought forward to October 2024 as the nation’s demand for coal continues to drop. In 2017, Britain recorded its first day without generating electricity from coal since the 1880s, and in 2020 more than two months passed without burning coal to generate power.

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Coal industry in the UK

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