MINERS at a North Yorkshire colliery have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a phased rundown of the doomed mine.

UK Coal said that of the miners who voted at Kellingley Colliery, 575 accepted Government proposals for a managed closure of the pit over 18 months, while 81 voted against.

A spokesman said the vote meant a major hurdle had been cleared in its efforts to secure £20 million in Government and private funding to help it secure a wind-down of Kellingley and also Thoresby colliery in Nottinghamshire, rather than an immediate shutdown.

But he said the result would have to be discussed with investors to check they would still willing to lend the money, and the conclusion of those discussions would not be known for a day or so. Thoresby miners have already voted in favour of the phased closure.

The ballot was organised after a group of National Union of Mineworkers members at Kellingley met earlier this month and voted against the Government’s proposals on a show of hands.

The closure, which will result in the loss of 700 jobs at Kellingley, has been blamed on an influx of cheap coal from the USA and the strong pound, which have led to tough trading conditions.

The government cash, together with private funds, will help UK Coal avoid immediate insolvency.

When the closure plan was announced, Selby and Ainsty MP Nigel Adams described it as a 'terribly sad day for the coal industry which came after several restructures at the company. He said it was 'madness' to help the pits close down when they employed hundreds of people and provided a secure energy supply for the country.

Unions had called for Government funds to be used to help keep the pits open until they returned to profit but their pleas were turned down by ministers, who said there was no 'value for money case' for the level of investment that would keep them open beyond the managed wind-down period to autumn 2015.