The coal industry was the backbone of Britain’s industrial revolution. In 1913 coal output peaked at 292.1 million tonnes (mt) of which almost a third was exported or used as bunkers for ships. Afterwards, in the face of more diffi cult geological conditions and competition from newly developed coal fi elds overseas, sales began to decline. In 1930 a Coal Mines Reorganisation Commission was established to promote the amalgamation of collieries into larger operating units, refl ecting concerns about the industry’s fragmentation under private ownership. The 1938 Coal Mines Act followed, providing for the vesting of all coal deposits in the country in a new public body, the Coal Commission, and in January 1947 coal mining was nationalised as the National Coal Board (NCB). Nationalisation was expected to bring economies in operation, modernise production methods and raise safety standards.1