Betws Drift Mine was sunk in 1974 by the then National Coal Board (NCB). It was built to exploit the sought-after Welsh anthracite from a number of seams.
It was beneath the much older Ammanford Colliery and had three long drift entrances. One of these was dedicated to man-riding and the other two for introducing machinery and extracting coal. Unusually, miners could ride direct to the working area from the pit-head baths. The railway operated with a trapped rail design for safety.
By the late 1970s, over 500,000 tons of coal were being removed every year. Despite the investment of around £16M in the 1980s, the mine was earmarked for closure in 1992. As a result of a management buy-out, it continued operating until 2003, rebranded as Red Dragon Coal. During these latter years, much of its production went to preserved steam railways.