Natural Resources of WalesCategory: Land + People
By Trevor M. Thomas
Excluding its inactive Pembrokshire extension the South Wales coalfield has an approximate coal-bearing area of 808 square miles, and of the exposed British coalfields is second in extent to the major Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire fields. Physical conditions of mining in South Wales are difficult, but the coalfield assumes special importance because of the high quality of its constituent coals. Mainly for the same reason but partly due to the relatively low cost of transport from pit to port the South Wales field has remained the chief exporting coalfield in Britain.
At the heads of the east Glamorgan and Monmouthshire valleys the easier mining conditions have resulted in the earlier exhaustion of the best reserves so that a continuance of the southerly drift of mining activity is an accepted eventuality. Elsewhere most of the active collieries have known reserves to last some 30-60 years. A few of these collieries are more than 100 years old, but still have many years of effective life ahead of them.
Further closures of uneconomic pits are inevitable. As far as is possible the manpower from these, and in some instances the remaining coal reserves as well, will be absorbed
into larger units which have been selected as centralisation points for coal raising.
The slates of north-west Wales are of unrivalled quality. The importance of the slate producing districts of Wales /which have been commercially important since the mid- ( twenties of the present century diminishes so rapidly that 1 in some areas the industry is now virtually extinct.
Throughout the present century the slate quarrying industry of south-west Wales has progressively declined. A small quarry has been functioning at Efailwen since World War II, but in recent years quarrying activity in this area I has been on a very minor scale.
Major obstacles which will hinder any further exploitation of the undoubted extensive slate resources of this- area include the great shortage of skilled craftsmen and the- haphazard dumping of waste material from former small- scale workings.
In addition to its mineral or rock resources- which. after extraction and subsequent usage are not replaceable, Wales has one natural resource that is continually replenished, namely its abnndant supply n£ wafpr The availablity of this and the facilities for its storage are dependent on a host of physical factors — climatological or meteorological, structural and topographical. These are to some extent inter-related and so, to varying degree, have been determined by the country’s geological evolution. Recent industrial and domestic consumer trends will necessitate greater usage of these water resources, both in Wales itself and in the adjoining parts of England not so favoured with regard to supply, reservoir space and the extent of unpolluted gathering grounds.
From The Mineral Wealth of Wales and its Exploitation, Edinburgh and London, 1961.