The first boreholes to explore this area for a new colliery were put down by Amalgamated Anthracite Collieries Limited 1926-1928, however, due to the trade recession, nothing more was done. In the 1950s the anthracite section of the South Wales Coalfield was incurring heavy losses and teetering on the brink of extinction. The Clean Air Act and the boom in the installation of central heating in houses changed the picture completely, and suddenly the country couldn’t get enough of Welsh anthracite. The decision was made by the National Coal Board to sink two new super-pits, Cynheidre and Abernant (at a cost of £10 million) to exploit the deeper lying seam.

The sinkings at Abernant commenced in 1953 just over 1.5 miles to the south of Cwmgorse Colliery, two miles south of Gwaun-cae-Gurwen and approximately 4 miles to the north of Pontardawe and 3½ miles from the northern outcrop of the Coalfield. It was in a broad valley with over two miles of open countryside.

The working area was five miles both to the north/south and on the east/west axis. In sinking this mine it was hoped to recapture the one million tons plus annual trade with Canada which had been lost during the war.

The South pit was started on the 8thof January 1954 and the North pit on the 25th of January 1954. The sinking was completed in 1958 to a depth of 836 yards in the No.1 Pit (North Pit and Upcast), and to a depth of 987 yards in the No.2 Pit (South Pit and Downcast). They were the deepest pits in the South Wales Coalfield and were 24 feet in diameter.

The winding engines were electrically driven, 2,000 horsepower for the South pit and capable of raising and lowering 80 to100 men per wind, or 6 or 9 tonnes of coal per wind in two decks which carried three mine cars per deck.

The North pit had a 1,500 hp engine. The centre of the winding drum was 116 feet above ground level. The ventilation fan produced 420,000 cubic feet of air per minute. The NCB estimated that there was 134 million tons of coal in 16 seams available to be worked, and intended to work the following first

  • Big Vein at 60 inches in thickness
  • Black Vein at 30 inches in thickness
  • Peacock seam at 40 inches in thickness
  • Brynlloi seam at 31 inches in thickness
  • Middle seam at 32 inches in thickness
  • Lower seam at 30 inches in thickness

It was intended to work the 57 inch thick Red Vein which was much higher up in the shafts (1,200 feet deep) at a later date, however, the planners had got it wrong and it turned out that the Red Vein was the only workable seam. They attempted to work the Peacock seam at a depth of 2,378 feet but pressures on the seam at that depth forced them to pull out in 1963. The mine had eight square miles of coal to exploit and was bounded to the east by the huge Gardner’s Fault which dropped the coal down 1,100 feet and to the west by the Duffryn geological fault which raised the coal up by 600 feet.

By 1980 there were 44 miles of underground roads and 10 miles of conveyor belts in this seam. The plan was to work all coalfaces on the retreat method (driving two roadways to the end of the workable area and then coal cutting back to the pit bottom) in the Peacock seam. This colliery was the pioneer of this system in the South Wales Coalfield. It was intended to man it from the closures of Cwmgorse, West, Steer and Cwmllynfell collieries eventually providing jobs for 2,000 miners producing 3,000 tons of coal every working day.

This colliery had its own coal preparation plant and employed 76 men on development work in 1960, in 1961 there were 259 men at this colliery 100 of them on the coalfaces/development. In this year the colliery was in the No.4 Group of the No.9 Neath Area, along with Cwmgorse, East, Ammanford, Pantyffynnon and Wernos Collieries. Total manpower for the Group was 2,838 men, and the total production of coal was 485,647 tons.

In 1968 the absence rate was 20%, and 118 men were transferred from the closed Yniscedwyn Colliery to cover the shortage in manpower, some of the men refused to work at Abernant because it entailed going down a shaft whereas they had always worked in slants.

In 1970 the NCB announced that they were spending another £4.5 million at this pit constructing a multi-heat smokeless fuel plant.

In 1983 the NCB reported that this colliery was losing £16.20 on every tonne of coal it produced. The total manpower at that time was 835 men.

During the 1984/85 miners strike the strike-breakers at this colliery took out an injunction at the High Court in London that the lodge officials “must not incite, procure, encourage or organise, persons to congregate at or near entrances.” The colliery lost one coalface during this strike, and with geological faults on the other two, production levels rarely got above 50% of what was expected.

In July 1985 the NCB informed the men at the colliery that they were prepared to invest £4 million in developing a cross measures drift from the pit bottom to the Four-Feet seam. In return, they would close the southern part of the workings, transfer some men to the new workings and make the others redundant.

The Colliery closed on the 26th of March 1988. The 100 feet high winding towers were demolished on Saturday the 10th of June 1995.


Some Statistics:

  • 1960: Manpower: 76.
  • 1961: Manpower: 259.
  • 1965: Manpower: 845.
  • 1969: Manpower: 942.
  • 1970: Manpower: 1,085.
  • 1971: Manpower: 1,024.
  • 1972: Manpower: 1,007. Output: 365,000 tons.
  • 1974: Manpower: 1,080. Output: 300,000 tons
  • 1975: Manpower: 1,059.
  • 1976: Manpower: 1,007.
  • 1979: Manpower: 916. Output: 267,000 tons.
  • 1980: Manpower: 883. Output: 203,942 tons
  • 1981: Manpower: 862.
  • 1985: Manpower: 845.
  • 1987: Manpower: 1,007.

This information has been provided by Ray Lawrence, from books he has written, which contain much more information, including many photographs, maps and plans. Please contact him at for availability.

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