Rich Felgate’s film FINITE: The Climate of Change, features the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley and the occupation of the Hambacher forest. It shows how, through relentless campaigning, direct action and creative protest, concerned people stopped destruction of the remaining Hambacher forest in the Rhineland, Germany. The forest was being consumed for RWE’s brown opencast coal mine. FINITE also follows opposition to the Banks Group’s opencast coal mine in the Pont Valley, Durham, UK. The Pont Valley Protection Camp started opposing the coal mine plans in early 2018.
Numerous applications to extract coal from the Pont Valley via opencast coal methods were rejected for over 30 years by the local council, before UK Coal were given planning permission after a second planning appeal, in June 2015, although the company had gone bankrupt. Banks Group took over the license to extract coal for power stations in early 2018 and rushed to remove the first coal before the planning permission lapsed on the 3rd June 2018.
Local people, some living just 300m from the site’s perimeter, alongside activists from across Europe, set up a protest camp in February 2018 during the ‘Beast from the East’ snow storm. This action was taken just after the coal company felled an ancient hedgerow that ran through the proposed site.
UK Coal’s ecologists had found protected great crested newts on the opencast site and had promised to relocate them, to ponds in the north of the site built for this purpose. Banks Group’s ecologist, in a rush to extract coal before the deadline, conveniently found no newts at all living on the site. The assertion that there were no newts was challenged by everyone who knew the Brooms pond area well. Newts were a central theme in the campaign to stop the mine.
The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley was led by people living in the three villages surrounding the opencast site. The film shows some of the many court hearings, protests, direct action, and a private prosecution for wildlife crimes.
FINITE shows some of the victories from this campaign. The strong resistance to the opencast in the Pont Valley showed that new opencasts are unwanted and irresponsible in the face of the serious impacts from climate change already being felt. This meant that extracting 3 million tonnes of coal from a proposed opencast coal mine near Druridge Bay, in Northumberland, was rejected by central government at the end of 2020. A proposed opencast coal mine at Dewley Hill on the outskirts of Newcastle was also turned down by the planning committee of Newcastle Council in December 2020. Both of these proposals were submitted by Banks Group, who were targetted by campaigners against coal in the Pont Valley.
Although there is very little UK mining happening right now coal mining remains legal. There is currently a proposal for a new underground coal mine at Whitehaven, Cumbria, which was given permission to start in December 2022, but faces legal challenges. There is also an extension proposed to the operating underground coal mine at Aberpergwm, Neath Port Talbot, which is subject to a legal challenge by Coal Action Network.
The tactics used against Banks Group and RWE, shown in FINITE, are applicable against many other extractive industries and unsustainable projects worldwide. Less than 2 miles from where Banks Group opencast mined the Pont Valley now lies Derwentside detention centre. Tactics used in the Pont Valley are now being deployed against this detention centre for asylum seekers, which opened in 2021.
The policing seen in FINITE is familiar to many who fight for social change, and shocking to many who are not yet involved. The interactions between police and protestors in the Pont Valley lead to an academic article, Police and Private Security Responses to the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley Against Opencast Coal Extraction. Even at a low level, the police continue to support the actions of those with money, pursuing projects which are known to cause harm.
FINITE touches on the death of Waka, a much loved part of the Campaign to Protect Pont Valley who was killed fighting for Kurdish freedom by ISIS and Steffan, an embedded journalist documenting the struggle in the Hambacher Forest, killed by the police.
An underlying message in the film is that the power of coal, as well as the actual resource, is finite—but the energy and passion of the activist movement is relentless. Together we can turn things around and build a system that puts biodiversity and people beyond profit. It’s time to get active.
We’re excited to let you know that you can finally watch FINITE online now on Vimeo On Demand, by renting or buying the film.
FINITE: The Climate of Change is an inspiring insider’s view of communities in the UK and Germany putting their bodies on the line to fight back against coal mining. Featuring Coal Action Network alongside local people in the Pont Valley, Durham…
We are an environmental organisation dedicated to ending coal mining and use in the UK for the sake of our collective climate and ecosystems. So you’d think we’d celebrate the claim by Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd that it will finally stop mining coal today at Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. But we’re not. Because the abject failure of Merthyr County Borough Council to stop…
People hailing from Cumbria to London, and everywhere in between, descended on the Mines and Money Conference in London across two days (28th-29th Nov 2023). We demanded that investors stop pouring cash into the mining sector, and instead invest in our collective future. Together with Fossil Free London and other groups, we greeted investors with…
The insurers that have ruled out underwriting the mine are AEGIS Managing Agency, Argenta Syndicate Management, Hannover Re and Talanx. These are the first financial institutions to rule out any involvement with the project, and the win represents a new phase in the campaign to stop the project from going ahead.
Today’s global actions focused specifically on the state-owned China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure), the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim), and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Sinosure is said to be in advanced talks with the Ugandan government about providing credit for the project.
On 18th October dozens of protesters staged a sit-in occupation of the plush City of London offices of ten Lloyd’s of London insurers demanding they rule out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Global mining companies are coming to London soon attempting to find investors in their ruinous projects at the Mines and Money Conference (28th to 30th November). Join our protests against it!
01 September 2022: Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd applies for a S.73 time extension to mine coal from Ffos-y-fran, and to accordingly delay and vary restoration works.
06 September 2022: Planning permission ends for coal mining at the Ffos-y-fran site, after 15 years and 3 months of operations.
12 September 2022: first reports to MTCBC have been made by local residents of coaling beyond the end of planning permission.
Over 30 Welsh NGOs and businesses have signed a letter to Welsh Minister Julie James and Deputy Minister Lee Waters, demanding they draw a line in the sand and announce ban on any further coal mines on Welsh soil. The letter was delivered on 11th October 2023.