Haig colliery sits on a cliff above the town and looks out to sea. While I couldn’t capture it relative to the town, I did manage to photograph this scene showing the coastline and the cliffs that fall steeply to the sea. This land between the cliff and colliery was previously home to the railway line and sidings that ran between the mine and the Ladysmith coal washery just up the coast. Gordon Edgar has a great photograph showing the scene here.
Coal was hauled there then back down past the mine to the Howgill Incline that was used to lower coal to the docks at the bottom of the hill. A landslip put this out of service in 1972. I’d read that coal was then moved off site by road, but I found this photograph on Flickr which shows a new washery and conveyor down to the docks. The description says that the new washery was built in 1977, so it didn’t see many years service before the colliery closed in 1986.
Interestingly (if you’re into railway history) there was another incline nearby, this being the Corkicle Brake incline that was used by the Marchon chemical works for bringing railway wagons up from the BR sidings on the mainline below. An excellent picture can be found here.
After the mine closed, everything was cleared except for one headgear and the winding engine house. This was preserved as a museum, and although this was refurbished in 2015, it closed in 2016.
West Cumbria Mining now own the site, and are based in the what was the visitor centre presumably built during the refurbishment in 2015. They have plans to open a new mine just up the road, on the now derelict site of Whitehaven’s other big employer, the Marchon chemical works. This mine would exploit the undersea coal reserves that Haig previously worked.
They certainly have ambitious plans, whether they will actually come to fruition remains to be seen, as I imagine opening a new coal mine is a hard sell to the authorities these days. Britain’s remaining opencast sites are due to close in the near future, which certainly embellishes any governments environmental credentials. However, while coal usage in the UK has plummeted to pre-industrial revolution levels, the fact remains that in 2019, 8 million tonnes of coal was burnt, the majority of which was imported, thus making it even less environmentally friendly due to it being transported thousands of miles on ships.
A lot of the coal is burnt by the steel industry, so as long as Britain makes steel, we will need to import coal. As to how long we will be making steel is anyone’s guess – more to come on that in a few weeks time!