THEY record a once-proud Yorkshire industry that is still surviving.

Evocative photos from the Hayroyds drift mine at Clayton West, Huddersfield, form a new exhibition.

And they show the working conditions still endured by a handful of miners long after the bulk of Yorkshire’s coal mines have closed.

Photographer Ian Beesley is the man behind The Drift, which was officially opened yesterday at the National Coal Mining Museum between Grange Moor and Middlestown.

He made repeated visits to the Hayroyds pit in Wheatley Hill Lane over the past two decades and has captured life above and below ground.

The drift mine is owned and run by the miners who work there. Twelve full-time miners work the seams.

It used to be family-run concern but was bought by the consortium of working miners in 2004 and has been producing about 18,000 tonnes a year ever since.

Joseph Flack is chief executive of the limited liability partnership, who led the consortium and whose great, great grandfather opened the mine in 1908.

He welcomed the exhibition on life at Hayroyds.

Mr Flack said many people who drove past the pit site may not even realise its existence because it was hidden by trees and hills.

Despite the modest output and small workforce, he says the pit has reserves to keep it going for “10 to 15 years at least” and it would continue supplying Drax power station at Selby, which takes the vast majority of the coal mined at Hayroyds.

He said: “It is dirty work but I have grown up with it and people who get into mining like it.

“It is a much more interesting job, it has more variety than working on a production line.

“Every day is different; a pit is a living, breathing thing, not like a factory. It throws up challenges and for me, as an engineer, even on a small scale, it is satisfying.”

Mr Flack, 39, said that mining was in his blood.

Mr Beesley, who has been taking photos at Hayroyds since 1990, continued to visit the pit over the years, taking pictures above and below ground.

He said: “I decided to try and capture the atmosphere of working underground, photographing the darkness, the claustrophobia, and the physicality of the work.

“It has been one of the longest and hardest projects I have ever undertaken, but I was inspired and driven on by the tenacity, determination and humour of the miners who, in the most difficult of times, have continued to fight to win the coal.”

The photos are accompanied by poetry by the writer Ian McMillan, the Bard of Barnsley.

A museum spokesman said: “The Drift leads visitors through a narrative that reveals the processes of mining today – and the sheer physicality of the work.

“It is a series of stunning images which captures the intriguing relationship between the cramped underground world inhabited by the miners and the spaces immediately above them on the surface.”