At the end of November 2021, we noticed the licence application for an extension to 'Aberpergwm Colliery' in South Wales on the little-publicised webpage of the Coal Authority (regulator for all coal mining across the UK). This webpage contains a listing of all coal mine licences and licence applications and is a good one to bookmark and check back regularly.
We noticed the application was made in 16/09/2020, so we knew it could be awarded a licence tomorrow or in a year's time. But after checking no other group was campaigning on this already, we sprung into action to ensure licencing wasn't just waved through. In early December we started raising awareness of the licence application over social media, and shared key facts about the coal mine.
We spoke with Minister Lee Waters of the Welsh Government who insisted the his Government cannot use their powers under the Wales Act 2017 to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion - since the licence's origins dates back before the Wales Act 2017 came into force. Therefore, it was for the UK Government to stop this licence. But the UK Government publicly disagreed in a BBC article on November 4th, arguing that the Welsh Government can apply the Wales Act 2017, and for that reason it would not be appropriate for the UK Government to step in.
In short, both the Welsh and UK Governments pointed the finger of blame at each other and neither would take responsibility nor resolve the issue between them, which actually had the power to intervene.
Coal Action Network launched a mass email campaign on 20/12/2021, encouraging our supporters and the public to contact Ministers Lee Waters of the Welsh Government, and Michael Gove of the UK Government. By the end of December, over 4000 emails had been sent to both Ministers, asking them to agree which government has the power to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion - and to step in to stop the licence.
Both Minister failed to respond to any of the 4000 emails, ignoring the thousands of concerns expressed to them.
After both Ministers Lee Waters and Michael Gove failed to respond to any of the 4000 emails, and ignore the thousands of concerns expressed to them, Coal Action Network followed with an open letter to them. This letter summarised the main concerns that our supporters and the public wrote to them with, and asked for a response to these concerns.
Again, both Ministers failed to respond and we were getting increasingly concerned their inaction and refusal to communicate would let this licence application slip through and commit us all to continued coal mining at Aberpergwm until 2039.
On 25th January 2022, the Coal Authority awarded Aberpergwm its coal mine expansion licence, quietly updating its listing of coal mining applications and licences. In response to an email from Coal Action Network, the Coal Authority claimed it could not refuse the licence on any grounds apart from a narrow criteria set by the 1994 Coal Industry Act. If an applicant meets this criteria, the Coal Authority claims it must grant it the licence.
Coal Action Network contacted Richard Buxton Solicitors to find out if there is still any hope of stopping this coal mine, and whether the Welsh Government can still intervene - as the UK Government claims it can.
In February 2022, CAN staff visited the site of the Aberpergwm coal mine and met with local people in Glynneath to deepen our understanding of local views and awareness of the looming coal mine expansion. We learned that people living in towns near to the coal mine felt reliant on the coal mine because it brought some business into an area struggling economically and with underfunded services such as public transport links between nearby towns. We have heard similar stories of other towns, forced by a lack of Government investment, to choose between a coal mine with HGV traffic, noise, and disruption, or further job losses and closures.
We also found only low levels of awareness that the coal mine was recently licenced for a massive expansion, indicating that coal mine operator, EnergyBuild Mining Ltd, had not communicated this with local people.
Coal Action Network reached out to Wales-based environmental groups and engaged them on the issue of the impending Aberpergwm coal mine expansion licence. After speaking of 100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane expected to be generated from this expansion, they took action.
Actions have included blockading the site office at the coal mine location on 11th March, and a theatrical noise demonstration outside the Senedd on 17th March 2022 which was attended by Wales Green Party leader Anthony Slaughter and Liberal Democrat party leader, Jane Dodds, who both delivered speeches on the need to prevent this coal mine expansion.
Richard Buxton Solicitors and Barrister Estelle Dehon (QC) represented Coal Action Network, believing there to be a case to argue:
After 'pre-action letters' to the Welsh Government and UK Coal Authority, Coal Action Network's legal team submitted an application in early April for a judicial review on these grounds.
Coal Action Network is a small grassroots organisation, so we need to fundraise £65,000 to challenge the Welsh Government and Coal Authority in a judicial review. These funds are needed to pay for our legal costs, potentially a portion of the other side's if we lose, as well as court fees.
But, if we win, we would set a legal precedent that could make it significantly harder for future coal mining across the UK, potentially laying a 475 year industry to rest and helping to safeguard future generations.
Please share and donate to our CrowdJustice crowd funder.
At the end of November 2021, we noticed the licence application for an extension to ‘Aberpergwm Colliery’ on the little-publicised webpage of the Coal Authority. This webpage contains a listing of all coal mine licences and licence applications and is a good one to bookmark and check back regularly…
42 million tonnes during the life of the extension + 30 million tonnes of “middling” coal to be dumped or put back into the coal mine.
Around 100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane could be emitted during…
Energybuild hasn’t been keeping local people in the loop, so we thought we would! Volunteers from Neath Port Talbot Friends of the Earth have given out flyers in Glynneath to start conversations and direct people towards this information about the mine expansion…
“As one of the last major insurers without restrictions on coal insurance, AIG’s new commitments to reduce underwriting for coal, tar sands oil, and Arctic oil and gas are a major step forward for people and the planet,”
Update on coal extraction and use in the UK. The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There are no new opencast mines proposed; only one proposed opencast coal extension and one existing opencast extraction site…
“It is a serious problem that John Neal has not been well enough briefed, or is just personally sceptical, about climate science and the findings of the International Energy Agency.”
Our Barrister’s pre-action letter convincingly puts the power to stop the Aberpergwm colliery extension licence firmly in the hands of Welsh Government Ministers. Now it is up to those Ministers to take their rhetoric and put it into swift, decisive action…
On 25th January 2022, whilst the Welsh and UK Governments continued to argue over which could stop it, The Coal Authority approved the full licence for an underground coal mine extension to Energybuild Ltd. The company can now mine a further 40 MILLION TONNES of coal until 2039…
Combined, both of you have received nearly 4000 emails from people who are dismayed by the news that the deep coal mine operated by EnergyBuild Ltd in Aberpergwm may imminently have the licence to extend it deconditionalised by The Coal Authority regulator…