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
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…
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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.
On 15th September 2023, The Guardian reported that Tata Steel accepted Government funding to avoid closing its steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales, by decarbonising it instead – but at a loss of up to 3,000 jobs. The UK Government is providing £500 million, and Tata Steel is expected to provide another £725 million…