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Victory! We stopped Ffos-y-fran opencast from extending coal operations!

After 20 years of campaigning, last night (26/04/23) Merthyr Tydfil residents, Coal Action Network, Friends of the Earth Cymru, the Green Party, XR and other environmental campaigners finally collectively stopped Ffos-y-fran opencast coal with the Council’s refusal of permission to extend its climate chaos until 2024! This is an important step forward for the environmental movement across the UK.

Local people have suffered 16 years of dust, noise and a changing landscape, as 400 hectares of land got destroyed and 11 million tonnes of coal removed. The Welsh Government permitted what became the UK’s largest opencast coal mine to start in 2005 and, together with the local council, allowed it to keep mining after planning permission ran out in September 2022. An extension application to keep extracting coal until March 2024 was unanimously rejected by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council on the 26th April.

At the planning hearing, the Council’s Planning Officers recommended that the application be refused, as it does not comply with Welsh law on coal mining.

Over 1,400 letters of objection written by Coal Action Network’s supporters were highlighted in the planning hearing, showing the large national and international demand to keep all coal in the ground. This highlights that Councils are being watched when they decide fossil fuel project permissions and should make them more accountable.

Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd, the coal mining company, claimed that it was under no legal commitment to contribute to the restoration fund—which the council disagrees with; it failed to provide details of what proportion of coal used at Port Talbot came from Ffos-y-fran; it failed to pay dues to the council whilst mining without permission since Sept 2022. There is only a £15 million deposit in the restoration fund, when between £75m and £125m is required to put back the site

In the hearing, elected Councillors voiced serious concerns about the potential shortfall of at least £60 million to deliver the restoration long-promised to local residents, and the lack of enforcement action by the Council when the mining company simply kept mining after planning permission expired. They both need to be addressed urgently. We’ll be fighting for justice alongside local residents until it is delivered.

Over the years there has been wide and varied resistance to Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine. A non-exhaustive list includes:

In January 2017, the United Nations special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights, Baskut Tuncak visited Merthyr Tydfil. At the time he said, “The first observation that came to mind was how incredibly close this community is to a massive open pit coalmine...I heard allegations of very high rates of childhood asthma and cancer clusters within the community. But despite those allegations I didn't hear any evidence of a strong intervention by the government to investigate or any strong reaction by the companies concerned to investigate themselves.". In the resulting report it said, “the Aarhus Convention’s Compliance Committee found that the UK was in breach of its obligations to ensure access to justice by in essence excluding the public from court procedures by prohibitively expensive cost requirements.”

In the planning hearing, the issue of the mine workers’ jobs was raised, but the Council made clear that the coal company should have been preparing workers for the end of coal mining on the site, as has been expected since 2011, and highlighted that workers were still required to restore the site in the coming years. Coal Action Network and others call on the company, with support from the Welsh Government to ensure a truly just transition for workers which could include them being invited onto the current Universal Basic Income pilot.

We are relieved that the Council saw sense and put an end to this climate trashing coal mine. There is work to be done to ensure the best possible restoration of the site, bringing the area back into public use. The Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council need to take urgent enforcement action to stop coaling and ensure that the restoration is paid for, in full by the mining company.

Published: 27. 04. 2023

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Mike Orton
Mike Orton
7 months ago

Whoop-pee!!!!! Let’s keep the “domino’s falling”

Robert Palgrave
Robert Palgrave
7 months ago

Brilliant news! So pleased for local residents. Well done all

Simon Hodgson
Simon Hodgson
7 months ago

Wonderful news – very well done everyone in achieving a classic David v Goliath victory, giving us all hope for a better greener future.

Miss Julia Dean
Miss Julia Dean
7 months ago

I am ecstatic reading this. This is a major victory for the community the country and the planet. People power is powerful. I’m so proud to have played a small part in this. 😊💕

Lionel Playford
7 months ago

Why wasn’t there a legally binding contract with the mine owner to restore the landscape once the mining permit ended? If there was, then they should have been putting enough money aside to cover the cost. That figure should have been part of their financial viability calculations before they started mining. Up here in the North Pennines we are still dealing with the legacy of river and soil pollution nearly 100 years after the end of lead mining. They mustn’t be allowed to walk away from their environmental and social responsibilities otherwise the community will be left with long term problems and an eyesore. I won a Blue Peter competition in the early 70s to design an open cast mine restoration scheme so we were thinking about these issues way back then. My scheme restored and enhanced nature and created amenities for local people.

Derek West
Derek West
7 months ago

This decision is welcome although belated, the subsidies for fossil fuel are beyond stupid,
5 trillion$ a year globally, Our leaders need to wake up and realise the consequences of continued CO2 emissions.

Owen Jordan
Owen Jordan
7 months ago

Victory, yes, and not before time. However, this is just one aspect of planet smashing, and even in south Wales there are still councils who have been bought by the coal mining industry and press for more mining at every opportunity. One small battle going the right way has to be viewed for what it is – and the effort needed to get just that – and should not be confused with the simple fact that those in government in the UK are still in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry. Big Time. The War is neither won, nor is the ultimate defeat of the evil doers – coal is not in itself evil – probable, let alone certain.

Mrs Christine Curwen
Mrs Christine Curwen
6 months ago

As a daughter of a miner and a climate campaigner, well done.

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[…] on 26 April, Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council unanimously rejected the extension. This should have stopped Merthyr completely. However, the company simply continued […]

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