Haig Colliery was sunk in 1914 by the Whitehaven Colliery Company to exploit the coal reserves between Ladysmith and Wellington Pits. The shafts are numbered 4 & 5 as the company already had 3 shafts at Wellington Pit.
Coal production commenced in 1916 and the colliery was operational until 1986. The shafts were 1200 feet deep and the workings ran out under the Irish Sea for some 4½ miles; despite this the mine was dry.
Two steam winding engines, built by the Bever Dorling company of Bradford, were installed, the first in 1916 on the No 4 shaft which was originally used for everything, but after 1933 it was only used for manriding.
Although No 5 shaft had its engine installed by 1923, it was another 10 years before it came into use hauling coal in one-ton tubs, 4 at a time. In 1983 the tub haulage was replaced by skips carrying 6 tons each time, a 50% increase.
Explosions caused by methane gas have claimed the lives of many men in the Whitehaven district. In the nearby William Pit, connected underground with Haig, explosions were frequently caused by spontaneous combustion of the gas. In all, 79 men have died at Haig Colliery:
- In 1922 an explosion killed 39 men. The full report can be found here.
- In 1928 an explosion killed 13 men.
- In 1931 an explosion killed 27 men. The full report can be found here.
In 1983, a major fault was encountered at Haig – with this, the future of the pit was in doubt. This, combined with the political situation, and the miners’ strike in 1984–85, contributed to problems at the colliery. The workforce attempted to open a new face, but a decision had been taken to close, and after two years of recovery work, Haig finally ceased mining on 31 March 1986.
Since 2014, West Cumbria Mining has been investigating the possibility of bringing back the coal mining industry to the area, which many thought had long gone. The company have been busy undertaking a programme of coal exploration, onshore and offshore, and has proven the presence of high-quality steel-making coal with very attractive properties including extremely low ash and phosphorus.
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