HUNDREDS of miners are still waiting to hear when they will return to work following an incident at a coal mine near Selby.

An investigation was launched following reports of a methane gas ignition on Tuesday night at Kellingley Colliery, where many former Selby coalfield miners are among the 600 employees.

Chris Kitchen, general secretary of the National Union of Miners, said a team of 40 was working to extinguish underground fires and monitor carbon dioxide levels, before any cause could be determined.

“They have now got a repair team in the mine. They are establishing a monitoring system to monitor gas levels, and piping nitrogen into the mine to suffocate the fire.”

Pit operator UK Coal said 200 workers were underground at the time of the incident, and all had been safely accounted for after an “ignition of methane”, which did not constitute an explosion.

A relative of one worker said miners had been “blown off their feet” during the incident, and Mr Kitchen said he was unable to predict when workers would be able to return to the mine.

A UK Coal spokesman said: “The tasks completed are providing the ongoing investigation with additional information which will enable us to better assess what further remedial measures are appropriate.

“Safety has and always will be our number one priority. The process which follows an incident of this kind is progressing well, but normal mining activities will remain suspended while the process continues.”