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Tower Colliery

Tower Colliery

David versus Goliath: a coal mine fightback

Former miner Glyn Roberts takes us on a tour of Tower Colliery, the coal mine where he worked since the 1960s. He saw one mine after another close in South Wales, and in 1994, the death bells also sounded over Tower Colliery.

At that time, due to British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's balderdash in the 1980s, Tower Colliery was the last remaining active mine in South Wales.

British Coal decided on 23 April 1994 that enough was enough: Tower Colliery had to close due to "no longer economical."


The miners, led by trade unionist Tyrone O'Sullivan, did not accept the closure and struck back: they took matters into their own hands and bought the mine: "We were ordinary men, we wanted jobs, we bought a pit."

239 miners each scraped together 8,000 to raise the 2 million. The wheels above the headframe from the 1930s started to turn again in early 1995.

Experts warned that their plans would fail and that there was too little coal in the ground. They were proven wrong. Year after year, the mine was profitable.


The miners made headlines with their success story. "People power that empowered Wales", "The coalmine that became a goldmine," etc. Even an opera piece was dedicated to it.

Tower Colliery finally closed thirteen years later, on 25 January 2008. Not for economic reasons, but because all coal seams were exhausted.

Triumphal procession

The closure was celebrated with a triumphal parade.

Its closure in 2008 did not mean Tower Colliery's 300 employees were unemployed. Many miners could go to the open-pit mine nearby, where six million tons of coal were still up for grabs until 2018.

Tower Regeneration invested parts of the proceeds through a fund in projects in neighboring municipalities. Local residents who protested against the reclamation were reprimanded: "This piece of land was already ugly."

Japanese tourists

Former miner Glyn Roberts remained devoted to his mine. He kept an eye on it and, for years, guided tourists who came from as far away as Japan in anticipation of a new destination.


The buildings of Tower Colliery deteriorated over the years and received unwanted visitors. The cables between the headframe and the lift building have been removed because they were used as a death ride.

Yet that is precisely what has become the new destination of Tower Colliery: an adventure park. A rollercoaster was built around the old mine buildings, a death ride that spans a mile and lands at the foot of the headframe, and a three-story climbing tower.

Tower Colliery was the oldest active underground mine in the United Kingdom and possibly in the world.

Its name first appeared in 1864, according to Professor Hywel Francil in "The Tower Story". At its peak, 2,000 people (and 500 horses) worked there.

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