The fourteen mile long Neath Canal opened the top end of the valley to widescale exploitation, as well as the local boys, from all over the U.K. Speculators took out mineral leases in an attempt to make their fortunes. In 1813 Henry Vigours opened up Pwllfaron just below Aberpergwm, however, he didn’t make a go of it and in 1816 this mine was taken over by John and Da-vid Arthur of Neath. About this time a Pwllfaron pit was opened as well as a small level called the Tyla Du at Resolven. At Resolven another small level called the Tweedle worked between 1812 and 1818. A longer-term mine was at Ynys Barwed which was working in 1823 by Morgan and Perkins and continued to work until the mid-1900s. At Cwmgwrach Thomas Protheroe opened the Cwmgwrach (Protheroe was a Newport merchant who made his money in coal mining in Monmouthshire, he was also a politician and out-spoken opponent of the Chartists. He witnessed against John Frost, the Chartist Leader, at his treason trial). The tramroad from Cwmgwrach had to pass over lands owned by the Pwllfaron Colliery to reach the canal, at a cost of 3 pence per ton. Around 1814 the Fforchgoch Colliery was opened.

As for mines around Aberpergwm, they were started under the name of Gwaeth-yr-Cwrt when owned by Mary Williams way back in 1670. Mr. George Williams and his son Rees, in association with the Neath Abbey Iron Company, worked this coal from 1793 to 1808 when Rees Williams bought out the company for E10,000 and from that date to the end of the century the Aberpergwm Pit belonged to the Williams family.

In 1810, Rees Williams bought a wharf at Giant’s Grave, Briton Ferry and became a coal shipper. In 1842 it was owned by William Williams and employed 84 miners and was working the Nine-Feet seam.

Pwllfaron was owned in 1869/70 by the Neath Abbey Coal Company but there is no listing for it in 1878 while in 1884 it was owned and managed by John Thomas. In 1896 it employed 147 men underground and 25 men on the surface with the manager being Daniel Rees. In 1910 it is shown to be owned, along with Glyn-neath, Vale of Neath and Aberpergwm Colliery, by G.H. Williams whose shipping office was at Gloucester Place, Swansea, at that time it employed 550 men, and Aberpergwm, 250 men. On the 22nd of December 1911, the Aberpergwm Collieries Limited was formed with a capital of £60,000, its commercial manager was M. Ogilvy Spencer, and the sales agent C.E. Handyside of Creswell Buildings, Swansea, and in 1913/16 employed 1,000 men at Pwllfaron and Aberpergwm. In 1918 they employed 369 men underground and 120 men on the surface with the manager being Rees Howells. This company was a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association. Pwllfaron is still shown as working in 1917/1921. By 1923 it was owned by the Vale of Neath Colliery Company and employed 1,039 men working underground and 200 men working at the surface of the mine and in 1927 there were 1,500 men employed. Both sets of figures include Aberpergwm. The manager was Rees Howells. By 1932 only Aberpergwm is listed. In 1945 it is shown to have employed 681 men underground and 183 men on the surface with D.E. Watkins as manager. At that time it was working the Eighteen-Feet, Three-Feet and Nine-Feet seams.

Aberpergwm was owned in 1858/70 by W. Williams and in 1884/1911 by Morgan Stuart Williams. The manager in 1878 was T.B. Allison, in 1882 it was M.S. Williams and in 1896 it was Daniel Rees who employed 56 men underground and 12 men on the surface. In 1904 a Walker-type ventilating fan was installed at this colliery. It was 16 feet in diameter and 6 feet wide.

 The ‘modern’ Aberpergwm workings date from 1863 with the associated Pwllfaron Slant re-opened in 1906. It was worked by the Aberpergwm Colliery Company in the Eighteen Feet, Four-Feet, Nine-Feet, Three-Feet and Cornish seams.

This company was made into a limited liability company in 1911 with a capital of £60,000 the manager at that time was Rees Howells. He was still manager in 1918 when the mine employed 143 men underground and in 1932.

The Rock was a drift mine that worked the Bluers seam which had a thickness of coal 28 inches, dirt 3 inches, and coal 25 inches. It also worked the Nine-Feet seam which had a thickness of coal 15 inches, dirt 18 inches, and coal 72 inches. It was listed as not working in 1913/1918 when it was managed by D.J. Walters, but by 1917 it is shown as being owned by the Rock Colliery Company which was not a member of the Monmouthshire and South Wales Coal Owners Association. During the 1925 Anthracite District Strike, this colliery was the last of the anthracite mines to continue working. That is until it was stopped by a crowd of 700 strikers amid rioting and baton charges by the police. This anthracite slant became part of Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Limited in 1928 with John Jones as the manager, and in 1935 was worked in conjunction with Aberpergwm, Cefn Coed, Llwynon, Glynneath and Glyncorrwg collieries as the Aberpergwm Collieries. They employed 286 men on the surface and 1,225 men underground. The manager was J.O. Howells. In 1945 it was still managed by J. Jones. In 1916 the men went out on strike with the Government Controller of Mines brought in to solve the dispute. The men’s demands of wages every Friday instead of every six weeks were met, but the demand for more trams to be available for filling was referred back to the union and the owners.

In 1923 the Vale of Neath Collieries Limited was based at Glyn Neath, with the general manager being Capt. M.H. Llewellyn and the manager was Rees Howells. At that time it controlled two mines; Aberpergwm level:148 underground and 36 on the surface and Pwllfaron slant with 1,039 men underground and 208 men on the surface.

 On Nationalisation in 1947, Pwllfaron Colliery is again listed and placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.1 (Swansea) Area, and at that time employed 202 men on the surface and 677 men underground working the Three-Feet, Nine-Feet and Eighteen-Feet seams. The manager was G. Rees. From that date, it again disappears and became the main drift into Aberpergwm. It was driven into the Nine-Feet seam (which it called the Big Vein) near its outcrop and worked this seam extensively. It had a thickness of up to ten feet. The seam called the Eighteen-Feet seam in this area was a composite seam consisting of elements of the Six-Feet and Four-Feet seams. It had a thickness of up to 10 feet 4 inches. The Upper-Four-Feet Seam had a thickness of 47 inches. The Six-Feet seam ranged up to a thickness of ten feet. The Red Vein was 37 inches thick.

On Nationalisation the Rock Colliery was placed in the National Coal Board’s, South Western Division’s, No.1 (Swansea) Area, and at that time employed 155 men working on the surface and 580 men working underground in the Lower Bluers, Grey and Lower Peacock seams. The manager at that time was E.H. Perkins. By 1954 the colliery had been re-assigned to the new No.9 (Neath) Area, No.1 Group, and at that time employed 151 men working at the surface of the mine and 485 men working underground in the Grey Vein. The manager was M. Davies. In 1955 out of the total colliery manpower of 658 men, 260 of them worked at the coalfaces of this colliery. This coalface figure rose slightly to 263 men in 1956 but had dropped to 231 men working at the coalfaces in 1958. In 1958 with the opening of the new Pentreclwydau Drift, the slants in this area were completely re-organised; this New Drift was to be manned by men that were working in the Aberpergwm and Rock slants and exploit the western take of Aberpergwm, a new surface was to be constructed including a new washery at Aberpergwm, which would also wash Cwmgwrach’s coals.

The Rock Colliery was closed in October 1961.

In 1956 out of the 690 men employed at this colliery, 555 were NUM members and 214 of them were at the coalfaces, while in 1958 there were 203 men at the coalfaces out of a total of 597 men working at the slant.

 The NCB used Aberpergwm as a base for central workshops, cable repair shops and road transport. The underground training of miners was done on part production coalfaces ‘73’ and ‘Z4’ in the White Four-Feet seam. In the late 1950s the NCB re-organised the mines in the Glyn-neath area and opened new slants at Cwmgwrach and Pentreclwydau, and constructed a new central washery at Aberpergwm. This new washery could handle 250 tons of coal per hour and washed the coal from Aberpergwm, Pentreclwydau, Blaengwrach and Rhigos collieries.

Pentreclwydau was opened to work the coals to the west of Aberpergwm and it was intended to transfer men from the Rock Slant and Aberpergwm to man the New Mine. On the 17th of June 1961, two men died under a fall of roof at this colliery. In 1961 this colliery was part of the No.2 Group of the No.4 Aberdare Area that also consisted of Rhigos No.1, Rhigos No.7, Cwmgwrach, Rock and Pentreclwydau collieries. The total manpower for the Group was 3,126 men, and the total production of coal was 726,000 tons.

The NCB were not satisfied with performance figures and quoted the following losses (Output per manshift – Loss per ton):

  • April – 196529.8 cwts – £1.47
  • May – 196526.7 cwts – £2.68
  • June – 196521.6 cwts – £5.12

However, improved performances just saved Aberpergwm Colliery. In 1969 this colliery was managed by N.D. Lewis and hit severe geological troubles in the Cornish seam which halved production. To save it an exploratory heading was driven into the old Eighteen-Feet workings of 100 years earlier, this drivage found that the old pillar and stall method of coal extraction had left enough coal intact to be re-mined. A new 274 metre drift from the surface of the mine was driven in 1971 to improve the transportation of supplies and for manriding, and new headings were driven into the 10 to 14 feet thick seam by Joy Loaders which produced 570 tons of coal a week and lifted the output per manshift to nine tons.

 From 1970 to 1972 F. Beynon was the manager, J.A. Griffiths was the manager from 1975 to 1978, while T.R. Evans was the manager in 1979/80. As late as 1979 the NCB announced that the colliery had reserves of coal amounting to 6.7 million tonnes.

By 1981 the main drift was 2.2 miles long and dipping between 1 in 4 and 1 in 7. Manriding capacity per train was 40, while coal was brought out by conveyors to the surface through the old Pwllfaron Drift at a rate of 400 tonnes per hour maximum. The colliery was working the narrow heading system of coal extraction using Joy-Sullivan gathering arm loaders in the Eighteen-Feet seam at a thickness of 2.6 metres, (the Eighteen-Feet seam is the merged Six-Feet and Four-Feet seams), and the Nine-Feet seam at a thickness of 1.58 metres. The saleable output was 65% of the total coal production. The headings were 5 metres wide and were expected to advance 4.27 metres a day on three shifts. The N2 coalface in the Nine-Feet seam was planned to open in September of that year with a length of 200 metres and a thickness of 1.58 metres of coal and 0.10 metres of clod falling with the extracted coal. Coal cutting was to be by two ranging drum shearers and roof supports were the self-advancing types. It had a planned life of 1,500 metres and was planned to produce 800 tonnes of coal per day over two shifts. Unfortunately, the area it intended to work in was subject to geological faulting and thrusts. The manager at that time was still T.R. Evans. In 1983 the NCB reported that this colliery was losing £44.70 for each tonne of coal produced, the second worse figures in the Coalfield.

Following the year-long miners’ strike this colliery had a poor recovery, and by the 22nd of April 1985 had only achieved 45% of expected targets. With the NCB demanding a better performance from the N2 face. It was hoped that a second face would be equipped within two weeks. Then under pressure from the NCB, a mass meeting of the men agreed to the closure of the colliery which was carried out on the 7th of October 1985 officially due to serious financial losses.

The colliery was later re-opened under private ownership, it took a year to pump the water out of the mine, and new 300 metres drifts were also driven. It has had several owners including; Glo Tech, Rhydian, Single Fern and then (2003) Anthracite Mining Limited. In 2000 the Government gave the owners of this mine grants totalling £1 million. In March of 2003, it again qualified for £903,600 in the final part of the Coal Operating Aid Scheme which had been going since 2000. Four of the six collieries that qualified were from south Wales, with Aberpergwm being the largest benefactor.

 The Western Mail in April 2010 had this rosy outlook to report;

The head of the Canadian company that owns Aberpergwm mine says he sees at least a 20-year future for coal extraction at the Neath colliery.

Keith Calder, chief executive of Vancouver-based Western Coal, said the site has the potential to produce more than one million tonnes of high-quality anthracite per year when fully developed.

Visiting the colliery yesterday, Mr Calder told the Western Mail he had been impressed with the mine’s possibilities when he visited in November before Western Coal bought out the remaining 46 % of Energybuild, the Aim-listed company that previously operated Aberpergwm.

The purchase, which was finalised last week, gave Western Coal 100% control of the company after previously being the majority shareholder with 54% of the stock.

Aberpergwm has reserves of 6.8 million tonnes and there is believed to be a coal resource of 94 million tonnes in the area between the Neath and Dulais valleys.

Energybuild had been developing a drift mine at the site but had seen production fall from 190,000 to 121,000 tonnes over the last two years.

Operational problems, difficult geology and equipment delays were blamed for the drop-off in production, but Mr Calder said he was confident Aberpergwm has a good long-term future.

He said: “The key point is there’s a mine plan here and we think that’s very interesting.

“But we also see there’s a bigger and longer-term future for Aberpergwm and that’s the message I got from Rhydian Davies [former managing director of Energybuild and now managing director of Welsh operations for Western Coal] when I visited in November.

“He had a vision for the future of the operation – I thought it was a great vision and that’s why we’ve invested here.”

Western Coal has invested £55m so far in Aberpergwm and is looking at doubling that depending on the outcome of an engineers’ study into the site.

The engineers, together with consultants and technical support staff from Western Coal’s other major operations in British Columbia and West Virginia, will be looking at the optimum size of the mine in relation to the reserves and the size of equipment. They are due to report early next year. “I’m a firm believer in letting the engineers and technical people do their job and decide what is the correct size [for the mine], then we’ll sit down and have a discussion and make the investment,” Mr Calder said.

Aberpergwm’s high-quality anthracite coal is a relatively rare resource worldwide.

Relatively small tonnages, in the tens of thousands of tonnes, are supplied to the two main customers, the Aberthaw power station and Corus Steel.

The third market is in so-called sized coal, which are larger lumps of coal for household and speciality purposes which reaches a premium over standard coal.

Of the three markets – power stations, the steel industry and household user – the steel industry is the most important in the long run because of the high metallurgical qualities of the anthracite.

Mr Calder said: “We’ve been having discussions with Corus. They did some testing of our material earlier this year and that seems to have gone very positively.”

Corus’ own Margam site does not stand in direct competition to Aberpergwm because it produces hard coking coal rather than the low volatility injection coal that Aberpergwm contains.

Western Coal employs around 230 people at Aberpergwm, a figure that is likely to grow substantially when the mine moves out of the development phase. Mr Calder said the company expected to have “a very strong uptake” from the local community when it comes to expanding the Aberpergwm workforce.

“Southern Wales is a coal mining area historically, the people understand coal mining, and there are a lot of very skilled operators in this area,” he said.

“That’s a very attractive point for us. We’ve got an apprenticeship programme with 23 apprenticeships in right now and we’re looking to grow that.”

But despite his optimism about Aberpergwm Mr Calder was more cautious about a wider renaissance of the Welsh coal industry.

“I think you have to be a little bit conservative on that. The industry has been very depressed for many years now,” he said. “I think it’s very important that we get the Aberpergwm mine up and running, producing well, and demonstrate that Welsh coal is still an interesting and attractive investment.

“Until we accomplish that there were still be a lot of questions out there, but we’re very confident we’re going to achieve that.

Despite the major investment, new surface and underground drivages, plus again new owners it all came to nothing and in December 2012 the papers announced: 

More than 250 workers could lose their jobs if Aberpergwm Colliery, near Glynnneath, has to close, the mine’s owner has warned.

Owner Walter Energy has sent letters to staff warning that global economic environment may force them to mothball the plant.

Previously, the mine owner had warned that up to 90 jobs could be lost at the site.

A 90-day consultation has now been launched, with a warning that suspension would affect a total of 270 employees with 251 losing their jobs and 19 being kept on to run the mine on a care and maintenance basis.

During the consultation most staff will be at home on full pay, while 100 staff will be kept on to continue development work.

A spokesman for Walter Energy said: “Walter Energy announced today it is commencing consultation regarding a proposal to suspend activities at its Aberpergwm Colliery, which will affect approximately 270 employees.

“This proposal is a result of a challenging economic environment which continues to heavily impact the global coal industry.

“During this period of consultation, most of the employees will remain at home on full pay.

“However, up to 100 employees may be required to continue working at the mine during this consultation period to continue development works within the upper drift.

“If Walter Energy proceeds with the proposals outlined today, early indications are that only a small number of employees would be retained to keep the mine in a safe condition until operations resume.

“Formal consultation will take place shortly with employee and trade union representatives, and as such it is inappropriate for the company to make any further comment at this time.”

 The main market for its coal was Aberthaw Power Station.

Just some of those that died in these mines:


  • 27/1/1883, Samuel Bryant, aged 38, collier, roof fall.
  • 21/2/1888, David Jones, aged 63, fireman, roof fall.
  • 28/7/1891, Gomer Morris, aged 24, rider, run over by trams.
  • 20/6/1895, Frederick Heal, aged 25, collier, roof fall.
  • 22/7/1895, David Harrison, aged 59, labourer, roof fall.
  • 7/2/1896, Thomas Williams, aged 40, manager, fell off a bridge at the screens.
  • 12/8/1897, J.M. Hopkins, aged 27, collier, roof fall.
  • 24/9/1911, Thomas F. Owen, aged 23, found dead near mortar mill.
  • 29/11/1912, James Williams, aged 54, collier, roof fall.
  • 27/10/1913, Edward Owen Jones, aged 27, collier, roof fall.
  • 18/5/1914, Fred Haynes, aged 20, collier, roof fall.
  • 5/11/1914, Cecil Weaver, aged 23, collier, run over by trams.
  • 18/11/1914, Trefor Walters, aged 30, collier, blood poisoning.


  • 5/3/1852, William Evans, aged 13, rider, roof fall
  • 8/4/1868, William Rosser, aged 70, collier, run over by trams.
  • 16/9/1868, T. Richards, aged 40, collier, roof fall.
  • 21/9/1868, J. Jones, aged 44, collier, roof fall.
  • 25/7/1894, Griffith Griffiths, aged 54, collier, roof fall.
  • 30/10/1899, David Baker, aged 14, collier boy, crushed by trams.
  • 31/3/1910, Idris Howells, aged 16, assistant lampman, burned. 2
  • 4/11/1911, John Thomas, aged 48, fireman, run over by trams.
  • 26/4/1924, Lewis Morgan, aged 56, collier, roof fall.
  • 29/4/1927, William Morgan, aged 46, collier, roof fall.
  • 15/7/1929, T.W. Richards, aged 18, colliers helper, roof fall.

Some statistics:

  • 1899: Manpower: 105.
  • 1900: Manpower: 119.
  • 1901: Manpower: 48.
  • 1902 Manpower: 45.
  • 1903: Manpower: 67.
  • 1905: Manpower: 93.
  • 1907: Manpower: 132 underground only.
  • 1908: Manpower: 176 underground only.
  • 1909: Manpower: 741 with Pwllfaron.
  • 1910: Manpower: 211.
  • 1911: Manpower: 767 with Pwllfaron.
  • 1912: Manpower: 170.
  • 1913: Manpower: 250.
  • 1916: Manpower: 1,000 with Pwllfaron.
  • 1920: Manpower: 1,000 with Pwllfaron.
  • 1923: Manpower: 184
  • 1924: Manpower: 1,000.
  • 1925: Manpower: 1,500 with Pwllfaron.
  • 1929: Manpower: 1,500 with Pwllfaron.
  • 1930: Manpower: 1,511.with Pwllfaron.
  • 1932: Manpower: 161.
  • 1933: Manpower: 161.
  • 1949: Manpower: 859. Output: 170,000 tons.
  • 1950: Manpower: 855.
  • 1953: Manpower: 737. Output: 196,600 tons.
  • 1954: Manpower: 691. Output: 164,000 tons.
  • 1955: Manpower: 703. Output: 143,743 tons.
  • 1956: Manpower: 690. Output: 137,043 tons.
  • 1957: Manpower: 676. Output: 140,293 tons.
  • 1958: Manpower: 597. Output: 132,088 tons.
  • 1960: Manpower: 365. Output: 86,000 tons.
  • 1962: Manpower: 367.
  • 1969: Manpower: 327.
  • 1970: Manpower: 319.
  • 1971: Manpower: 334.
  • 1972: Manpower: 329.
  • 1976: Manpower: 329.
  • 1978: Manpower: 351. Output: 100,000 tons.
  • 1979: Manpower: 322. Output: 64,000 tons.
  • 1980: Manpower: 307. Output: 63,650 tons.
  • 1981: Manpower: 303.
  • 1985: Manpower: 317.

Some Statistics (Pwllfaron):

  • 1896: Manpower: 172.
  • 1899: Manpower: 276.
  • 1900: Manpower: 301.
  • 1901: Manpower: 324.
  • 1902: Manpower: 375.
  • 1903: Manpower: 366
  • 1905: Manpower: 430.
  • 1907: Manpower: 325 underground only.
  • 1909: Manpower: 741 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1910: Manpower: 250.
  • 1911: Manpower: 767 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1912: Manpower: 274 underground only.
  • 1915: Manpower: 250.
  • 1918: Manpower: 489.
  • 1920: Manpower: 1,000 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1923: Manpower: 1,239 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1927: Manpower: 1,185 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1928: Manpower: 1,168 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1933: Manpower: 1,106 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1937: Manpower: 1,402 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1938: Manpower: 1,529 with Aberpergwm.
  • 1945: Manpower: 864.
  • 1948: Manpower: 891.
  • 1950: Manpower: 845.

Some Statistics (Rock Pit):

  • 1907: Manpower: 59.
  • 1909: Manpower: 8868
  • 1910: Manpower: 167.
  • 1911: Manpower: 118
  • 1912: Manpower: 215
  • 1915: Manpower: 230.
  • 1916: Manpower: 230.
  • 1923: Manpower: 366. Output: 60,000 tons.
  • 1924: Manpower: 705.
  • 1925: Manpower: 900.
  • 1927: Manpower: 900.
  • 1932: Manpower: 650.
  • 1933: Manpower: 649.
  • 1937: Manpower: 644.
  • 1938: Manpower: 488.
  • 1945: Manpower: 622.
  • 1947: Manpower: 735.
  • 1948: Manpower: 766. Output: 150,000.
  • 1949: Manpower: 718.
  • 1950: Manpower: 685.
  • 1953: Manpower: 758. Output: 228,600.
  • 1954: Manpower: 636. Output: 186,000.
  • 1955: Manpower: 658. Output: 163,111.
  • 1956: Manpower: 619. Output: 128,169.
  • 1957: Manpower: 619. Output: 128,700.
  • 1958: Manpower: 575. Output: 102,685.
  • 1960: Manpower: 325. Output: 85,000.


Information supplied byRay Lawrence and used here with his permission.

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