Two new opencast coal mines in northern England could begin work this spring, unless the government decides to intervene, despite recent affirmations that the UK will end coal use for electricity by 2025.
This year, following the UK governments joint launch of the ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’, the mining company Banks Group announced their intention to begin mining at a new site, ‘Bradley’ near Dipton and Leadgate in County Durham. Banks are also hoping that the Secretary of State will allow them to mine at Highthorn next to Druridge Bay in Northumberland.
Today, 25 residents from County Durham, the national campaign group Coal Action Network, Pont Valley Network, Derwent Valley Protection Society, and the Burnopfield Environmental Awareness Movement appealed to Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, in a letter [Download letter] urging him to use his powers under the Town and Country Planning Act  to revoke Banks’ ‘Bradley’ permit.
The permit to mine at Bradley was granted in 2015 prior to the 2017 government commitment to a 2025 coal phase-out. Permission was granted to UK Coal, a now liquidated coal company.
Local MP Laura Pidcock says, “I have requested a meeting with the Secretary of State because I am concerned on behalf of the local community at the environmental and social impacts of this mine. There is a strong local campaign that has worked very hard to keep the area free of the impacts of open cast coal mining.”
Banks Group also await the outcome of a decision from Sajid Javid about the controversial mine planned for Druridge Bay, Northumberland, due to be decided by early March.
Anne Harris, of the Coal Action Network, said ‘The 2015 Paris Agreement and the sharp decline in coal use this year indicate there is no long-term future for coal. If it fails to intervene in these projects, the government will allow local peoples’ health and ecology to be needlessly and permanently damaged, and risk its reputation as an international leader in “Powering Past Coal”.’
In April 2017, the UK saw its first coal-free day and coal use in the UK has dropped to 7% of the UK’s energy mix compared with 30% in 2014. In the past month, two coal-fired power stations, Eggborough and Kilroot, have announced closure due to changing market conditions for coal.
Climate change minister Claire Perry jointly launched the international ‘Powering Past Coal Alliance’ with Canada in November 2017, ‘to lead the rest of the world in committing to an end to unabated coal power’.
Pitch Wilson, local resident and Secretary of a community group called “Derwent Valley Protection Society’ said, “For 50 years we have battled to save the Derwent valley, against ten appeals by mining companies, which were dismissed as each inspector said the environment is more important than the need for coal, even during miners strike and the oil crisis in the 70s.”
Banks Group argue the site will help to meet a ‘continuing high customer demand’ for coal and have offered 10 pence per tonne to a community fund.
Thomas Davison, 28-year-old a resident living 300 metres away from the proposed opencast site said; “The return offered by Banks will not come close to balancing the lasting damage that will be done here. Their desire to extract 550,000 tonnes of coal is driven by nothing more than profit and not at all by a genuine need for energy. We have moved onto other forms of cleaner energy for the good of our global climate. So why is it worth harming the local wildlife and the local economy for one last money grab?”
There are three further opencast applications at various stages of the planning progress, which are expected to be contingent on the Secretary of State’s decisions regarding Bradley and Druridge; ‘Hilltop’ (Provectus), Nant Llesg (Miller Argent) and Dewley Hill (Banks Group). Last week it was learned that the mining company Hargreaves plan to work the permit on their County Durham site, ‘Field House’ in Spring 2018.
Residents near to the proposed sites have opposed the projects the grounds of negative health impacts associated with opencast mining, such as asthma and respiratory problems, the impact on local ecology, and climate change.