A MEMORIAL to 45 miners killed in the Six Bells Colliery disaster will be unveiled for the 50th anniversary of the tragedy after £100,000 funding was secured.

The money, from the Heads of the Valleys programme, will allow the 20m high stature of a miner on a plinth to be ready for next year's anniversary on June 28.

The statue will stand 12m high on top of a 7.4m concrete plinth, which will feature the names of all the men killed.

There were worries the steel memorial would not be ready in time, but along with the £100,000, cash was collected from partners including Abertillery and Llanhilleth community council and Communities First.

Six Bells Communities First co-ordinator Mair Sheen said: “It is hoped that the new statue on the former colliery will be a lasting tribute to the men who died, and others who have lost their lives in the mines throughout the Heads of the Valleys region.”

As reported in the Argus in July, there were fears this monument might not be built as only £32,000 had been raised.

The miners were killed on the morning of June 28 1960 by a gas and coal dust explosion.

Jim Watkins, 78, who was working in the Six Bells colliery on that fateful day when his co-workers were killed, made a heartfelt plea for people to rally round and raise the cash.

Then 29, Mr Watkins, of Richmond Road, was in another part of the colliery at the time of the explosion, which killed some of his close friends.

He has attended a memorial service every year since to remember his former colleagues.

He said he feared they wouldn't reach their target in time and described the news as "tremendous."

"This is very important for the area, and not just for the ones who died in the explosion, but other men who were killed, because it means they're not forgotten.

“I'm over the moon that we're going to achieve this, it's brilliant."

Sculptor has many works in Gwent

The final design will be by Sebastien Boyesen, who also commissioned the Chartist Man in Blackwood as well as the Lost Sailor, Deus Ex Machina and the railings/fencework at Newport's Riverfront centre.

The Heads of the Valleys programme is a £140 million, 15 year regeneration project across South Wales aimed at developing Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Torfaen, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil.