Statement on Walter Energy Announcement From Peter Hain MP:

Following the announcement that Walter Energy is starting a consultation regarding proposals to suspend activities at its Aberpergwm Colliery which will affect approximately 270 employees Neath MP Peter Hain said,

“This is desperately disappointing. I have given the mine every support I can but it appears to be a victim of international factors including the global recession which is severely affecting the price of coal and the damaging policies by the Westminster government which are hitting businesses hard.

“To risk losing these highly skilled and well paid jobs would be a real body blow to our local communities. I hope that commercial conditions will improve so that the mine can start working again as it’s been so successful for the last ten years. I will continue to work with Rhidian Davies and his team to secure the future.”

Peter gives Evening post Gleision interview

Evening Post 15/09/2012

NEATH MP Peter Hain was in the middle of a high-powered meeting in Westminster when he first heard that something had happened in a private mine in his constituency – within the hour he was on his way back from London.

The experienced politician was an almost ever-present presence in the tiny village of Cilybebyll, situated on a hillside above the Swansea Valley, over the three days in which the Gleision Colliery disaster played out.

As the tragedy unfolded he worked tirelessly to comfort the families of the four trapped miners, offer his support to the emergency services and to keep a ravenous global media informed.

He was also to set the wheels in motion that saw over £1million raised for the miners’ families.

Speaking exclusively to the Evening Post on the eve of the anniversary of that dark day, which saw the name Gleision Colliery appear on news channels around the world, he said: “I literally rushed out of Westminster, abandoning my meeting and diary for the rest of the day, because I had a feeling that it sounded very serious, worse than the sort of accidents that happen from time to time in local mines.

“I immediately got the first train down and arrived at the Rhos community hall as soon as I could.

“The mood at that stage was obviously one of concern, the families had started to gather together, most of them were sitting in groups in the hall, it was a very solemn mood but there was still a spark of hope.”

However Mr Hain was already preparing himself for the worse.

“At that stage nobody knew how serious it was but I instinctively felt that I should adopt a serious tone in the interviews I gave.

“The mines rescue service, the fire brigade, the police, everybody was doing an outstanding job, but I felt in my bones that this was potentially a serious tragedy.”

That feeling of foreboding was soon to spread.

“As the long hours wore on, it was 30 hours before it came to a close, the gloom deepened in the hall, it was as if a dark cloud, a blanket, had descended.

“The families became increasingly numb.”

They did, however, draw a measure of comfort from the community around them.

Mr Hain explained: “They could sense that there was this welling up of support around them.

People bringing food, refreshments, people turning up to volunteer to make tea or coffee, virtually all through the night.

“I talked to everyone I could and they were all grateful that I was there and pleased with what I was saying because it reflected what the community was feeling.”

Mr Hain was also instrumental in helping set up the Swansea Valley Miners Families Appeal Fund.

He said: “I went back home to have diner with my wife Elizabeth in the Neath valley after doing some late night interviews. We were talking about the families, thinking what we could do, we thought, they are going to need support because now they are on their own, the media caravan has gone away, the public has gone home. That’s when I thought of the idea of setting up the appeal fund. By the end of the first day we had raised £20,000 and by the end of the weekend we had raised £50,000 and then the postman arrived in the office, not just with the normal bundle of mail but with sacks of mail. The response was absolutely magnificent and it just kept coming in.”

Many observers have since remarked on how the wider community took the disaster to heart as it were.

Mr Hain has his own theory why this happened.

He said: “The thing that made it emotionally so powerful, for so many millions of people, was we thought that this type of mining tragedy was something that happened to our grandparents and great grandparents, not something that would happen today. But it did! That was what was so terribly, terribly shocking about it. There are no major public ceremonies arranged to mark the anniversary but all will pause to remember, not least the families.”

Mr Hain said: “I’m sure there will be a few things happening but I don’t think the families want a fuss. They have had to endure all of that. Although they have all been immensely grateful for the community’s support, to come to terms with this deep and bitter loss, in front of everybody, rather than behind their own doors, is very difficult.”

Mr Hain, who will spend this weekend in his Neath constituency with his own thoughts, said: “One of my abiding memories will be of the young son of David Powell walking in front of his dad’s coffin, he was bravely leading the funeral procession.

“One of the benefits of the miners’ fund is we will be able to help him when he gets older. “Another lasting memory was being at the entrance to the mine on the Friday morning and seeing the calm, resolute, utter determination on the faces of the miners rescue team and all the other emergency workers. “The way the two big mines in the Neath Valley, the Aberpergwm and Unity mines, responded was also incredible.”

“Their trained rescue workers arrived within the first hour and brought all the equipment, they were absolutely critical, if those men had still been alive then they would have got them out. “The final thing that sticks in my mind, and I feel haunted by it, is the mine inspector showing me the plan of the mine and where they were working. It was clearly shown that they were heading straight towards an area of abandoned mine workings, marked water. Why? They knew they were headed there, that is something that still has to be answered.”

Gleision fund closes with over £1 million for victims families


The Swansea Valley Miners Appeal fund was officially closed on Monday 3 September almost one year after the tragedy which saw four miners lose their lives. The fund raised £1,091,667 through contributions from across the community and as far away as America, Chile and New Zealand.

The considerable generosity of everyone who donated was described by Peter Hain MP as “mind blowing”, he went on to say “I had no idea it would be so successful, for this amount of money to be generated in these times of hardship, it really dispels the idea that society has become greedier and individualist, a real community is enduring and Neath’s is alive and well”

“The tragedy was a stab through the heart of the local community and touched the lives of thousands across Britain and the world but the response was phenomenal  including large donations, monies from fund raising events and smaller donations from pensioners giving all they could afford to children donating their pocket money – all contributed to achieving this.”

The fund was set up in the aftermath of the tragedy in conjunction the National Union of Mineworkers. It was initially administered by Peter Hain’s office while Trustees were established before being handed over to the Trustees and the Coal Industry and Social Welfare Organisation to be administered.

The fund will be distributed to the victims’ families with trust funds for the younger children upon reaching 21, to give them the opportunity and financial help of things like educational costs.

Costs have been kept to a bare minimum with free legal advice provided by Thompson Solicitors, £529 was spent on Indemnity Insurance for the Trustees and 5p for a full audit.

 

Gleision Families: We’d Give Up Everything To Have Relatives Back

Evening Post

THE families of four men who died in the Gleision mining tragedy would swap all of the £1 million raised in their memory to have them back, it was said yesterday.  Fund trustee Wayne Thomas said the response to the appeal to help the families had been phenomenal, following the incident in which the miners lost their lives in Cilybebyll almost one year ago.

Full Evening Post article

Read Here

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A massacre that threatens Mandela’s Legacy

Times

For Nelson Mandela’s disciples now ruling the country, the killing of black mineworkers by South Africa’s now predominantly black police force has been seismic — testing his African National Congress like nothing else since they took power.

The 1994 miracle of Mandela’s rainbow nation and even the joyous, bubbling football World Cup showcase two years ago have been expunged by the lethal conflagration around Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine near Rustenburg, where 34 people were killed on Thursday when police opened fire on the striking workers.

The ugly clash invited immediate comparisons with massacres by the apartheid regime, including the death of 69 innocent people at Sharpeville in 1960. But this was much more complex. Most people who had gathered peacefully at Sharpeville were shot in the back by white police. Many of the miners in last week’s clash were armed with spears, machetes and clubs as they demonstrated for higher wages. Some may even have fired shots themselves.

Lonmin and its workers have been grappling with a collapse in the price of platinum, with several other platinum mines shut down this year. Another complication is the power struggle between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), an iconic force in the anti-apartheid struggle with strong ties to the ruling ANC, and the recently established and more radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).

The AMCU maintains that the NUM has been distracted by being a key faction within the ANC leadership. The NUM blamed Lonmin for triggering the strike by making pay concessions to the AMCU. Before the shootings on Thursday, ten had already died at Marikana in attacks blamed on union in-fighting.

So the police were confronting a cauldron. “The militant group stormed toward the police, firing shots and wielding dangerous weapons,” the police chief, Riah Phiyegashe, said. Without the same justification her white predecessor at Sharpeville said much the same thing and that proved a lie: the independent inquiry will have to uncover the truth.

But the ugly clash has broader roots in the mostly simmering but sometimes explosive resentment at the chasm between expectations and delivery. For the last few years fully two million people annually have taken to the streets protesting about their predicament. Unemployment among black youth remains shockingly high at 65 per cent.

Despite millions having received running water, electricity and better housing from the ANC, in other respects living conditions of poor blacks, including miners, have hardly improved in the 18 years since apartheid ended. As in most other countries, the gap between rich and poor has widened, with in South Africa a new black middle class, including ANC politicians and ANC-linked trade union leaders, enjoying enrichment. Allegations of corruption in all levels of government are widespread, also breeding bitterness.

No country spends as much of its GDP on education as South Africa does and the ANC has doubled school attendance since the dark apartheid days. Yet out of 137 countries in the 2011 Global Competitiveness Index, South Africa ranked 130 for the quality of its overall education.

Under the ANC South Africa has made huge advances especially in civil rights and democracy, a joy to behold compared with the evil of apartheid. Yet an editorial in the Sowetan — a thorn in the apartheid government’s side — commented acidly:

“This is an abnormal country in which all the fancy laws are enacted and the Constitution is hailed as the best on Earth. All the right noises are made and yet the value of human life, especially that of the African, continues to be meaningless. That’s what Marikana means.”

Refusing my request to help organise this October’s centenary celebration for the ANC in London, a friend who had successfully promoted similar events in antiapartheid days said: ‘I don’t see the ANC as a cause anymore.’

Governing — especially given the horrendous legacy of poverty, inequality and destitution bequeathed by apartheid — may be intrinsically much too problematic to be a ‘cause’, but ANC leaders know well that they have now to provide a much better vision for their people. Otherwise others less well motivated will fill the void.

Ominously Julius Malema, pro-Mugabe, a fierce opponent of President Zuma and a populist opportunist expelled by the ANC, visited Marikana to exploit the tensions and was greeted ecstatically by a large crowd. He demanded nationalisation of mining and virulently denounced the ANC leadership for betraying its people.

This is a moment of great peril for the ANC which needs to rediscover its moral compass. unless President Zuma demonstrates strong and decisive leadership to maintain investor confidence and rebuild grass-roots support, the existing plots against him could accelerate.