A COLLIERY boss has sought to allay safety concerns over the future of East Lancashire’s last remaining coal mine.

David Mort, who will manage the Hill Top mine, at Sharneyford, near Bacup, spoke out after three men died in the Swansea Valley in September, and another perished in a rock fall in North Yorkshire.

Bosses believe there is still around 160,000 tonnes of coal left at the Flower Scar Lane pit, near the border of Bacup, Burnley and Todmorden.

But Mr Mort sought to reassure county councillors that safety would be the paramount concern at the moorland site.

“You are never going to make it risk free – it is geology that we are dealing with after all. But we would like to miminise those risks,” Mr Mort told the county’s development control committee.

He said his ‘primary concern’ was safety, having held a number of management roles at collieries in Wigan.

Mining at Hill Top dates back to 1949, but it closed in 1964.

The pit was reopened by business partners Billy Clayton and Rodney Mitchell.

Around 30 were employed at its height, but the workforce dwin-dled until there was only Billy left.

The current seam is expected to provide work for eight to 10 miners for the next decade.

Coun Joan Jackson said: “In view of the fact there have been no representations, or objections, I move that we accept the recommendation on this application.”

The mine’s operator, Waterfoot-based Grimebridge Colliery, was given a 10-year extension by county councillors.

Six lorries per day are expected to leave and enter the Hill Top pit, and another four smaller vehicles, says the firm.