SAFETY inspectors are investigating reports of a methane gas incident at a coal mine near Selby, which has led to hundreds of miners being laid off.

Miners were evacuated from Kellingley Colliery – where many former Selby coalfield miners are among the 600 employees – after the incident on Tuesday night.

HM Inspectorate of Mines said it was called in and a team of inspectors was now investigating.

A woman who said she was a relative of a miner called The Press and claimed miners had been ‘blown off their feet’ after a methane gas ‘explosion,’ with some suffering cuts and bruises.

Pit operator UK Coal said there had not been any injuries, and said that while there appeared to have been an “ignition of methane” from an area where coal had previously been extracted, this did not constitute an explosion.

He said 200 employees were underground at the time and all had been safely accounted for.

He said mining had been halted and most of the mine’s 600 staff laid off while the investigation continued, although some employees were carrying out other work. It was not known when the laid-off miners would be able to return to work.

A National Union of Mineworkers’ spokesman said he had heard reports of a ‘rush of air’ following a build-up of gas which had blown miners off their feet, but could not confirm this.

Kellingley is one of Britain’s few remaining deep coal mines, and it provided for miners who worked at pits in the Selby coalfield when it closed down some years ago.