We're not celebrating the purported end of coal mining at Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales today. Because the abject failure of Merthyr County Borough Council to stop the past 15 months of illegal coal mining at Ffos-y-fran has resulted in:
The Welsh Government, rather than stepping in to issue a stop notice to prevent the illegal coal mining, even transported the illegal along rail lines owned by the Welsh Government to customers...and continue to do so. The coal company has amassed a huge stockpile of coal at the rail terminal to continue selling off after 30th November - largely made possible by the Welsh Goverment's rail lines.
The Welsh Government's policies against coal mining are obviously not strong enough - why won't the Welsh Government take its place next to Scotland in issuing a clear ban on coal mining?
There are around 150 workers at Ffos-y-fran who face redundancy today. Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd has let workers down. The company had many years of knowing when planning permission expired, and to retrain and support workers to find work in more sustainable industries for when that happens... but hasn't. To add insult to this injury, the company further let workers down by refusing to pay for the restoration that it's legally obliged to, and which would have provided many workers with years of work to come on site, in the green sector of nature restoration.
The final restoration plan promised to local residents since 2007 now hangs in the balance as the mining company makes off with bumper profits from both legal and illegal coal mining, but refuses to meet its obligation to pay for the restoration. It's siphoned MILLIONS of pounds of profits into related companies, and neither the Council nor the Welsh Government seems intent to challenge that. Local residents and the Welsh Government's own report warned the Welsh Government and Local Council nearly a decade ago of this exact risk - why wasn't that acted on? Sign our petition [link] to demand the Welsh Government commits to delivering:
We obtained a letter from the Coal Authority to the Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council, in which the Chief Executive of the Coal Authority is scathingly critical of inaction within the Council and their handling of Ffos-y-fran. The Council must be held to account for its failings.
Extinction Rebellion Cymru protestors blockaded Ffos-y-fran illegal operation for over 24 hours - which is 24 hours longer than Merthyr County Borough Council managed to. Despite the illegal activities of Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd, its owner David Lewis has been left untouched. On the other hand, XR protestors were arrested, held in police cells, and have court hearings about for preventing illegal coal mining. Please donate to their legal fees crowdfunder against this gross injustice.
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 flyers highlighting risks to investments in mining that mining companies want to hide—such as successful grassroots resistance to mining projects around the world.
We also heard on the grapevine that EMR Capital PTY were attending in the desperate hope of raising the £230 million still needed to start the Whitehaven coal mine. So local campaigners from Cumbria came all the way to London to deliver a message to investors—steer clear of it. To further ruin EMR Capital PTY’s plans, they also handed investors a risk assessment provided by Bank Track outlining risks specific to the Whitehaven coal mine proposal. We even had time to fit in a visit to Talbot insurance company's HQ in the City of London - security saw us coming and put the whole building on "lock down"! But that didn't stop but engaging with employees and making out presence seen (and heard!). We demand that Talbot insurance company rules out the possibility of insuring the Whitehaven coal mine. No insurance = no coal mine!
There’s many options that we must make better use of before clawing the ground up to reach the mineral beneath, and that is where investment is needed. For example, we need:
This would truly be ‘resourcing tomorrow’ - the strapline for this year’s Money & Mining conference. Instead, the conference encourages investment in the rush for remaining minerals, fuelling human rights abuses, land grabs, destruction of local eco-systems, and climate change.
We call out the host of this disastrous conference, the Business Design Centre, which boasts its ethical ‘B-Corp’ status. You might want to raise your concerns with the certifying body about giving these hosts any kind of ethical certification (firstname.lastname@example.org), pointing out that at least three fossil fuel companies advertising coal mines and oil production were touting for investment at the conference (BHP, ADX Energy, and Teck).
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.
13 September 2022: Local residents submit letters of objection to the Ffos-y-fran extension application.
20 September 2022: CAN submits a letter of objection to the Ffos-y-fran extension application.
27 September 2022: Local residents were supplied with a statement from the Local Planning Authority via their Assembly Member stating; '“If coal mining operations continue on site, this would result in a breach of the planning conditions and may be subject to enforcement action. At this stage because a planning application has been submitted, which seeks to amend to the current permission and enable operations to continue on site, it would not normally be expedient to take enforcement action until that application has been determined…”.
14 October 2022: Local Residents apply to the Planning Directorate (Wales) asking them to 'call-in' the planning application for it to be determined by the Welsh Government
23 October 2022: CAN launches a 38 Degrees petition for Welsh Ministers to call in and reject the application to extend Ffos-y-fran.
12 January 2023: two local residents hand-deliver petition with over 20,000 signatures to the Welsh Government to call in and reject the application to extend Ffos-y-fran.
12 January 2023: CAN emails the head of planning at MTCBC for confirmation whether coal mining is—or has been—occurring at Ffos-y-fran beyond the end of planning permission. The Case Officer responds on 20th January as below.
19 January 2023: CAN contacts MS Dawn Bowden to alert her to the suspected planning infringement within her constituency. The Office of MS Dawn Bowden responds that they will seek an update from the Local Planning Authority regarding the site and current activities.
20 January 2023: MTCBC‘s Principle Planning Officer responds that “It is my understanding that coaling mining has presently ceased on site, pending the outcome of the current planning application”. This understanding was formed based on an update provided by the mining company rather than any kind of inspection or investigation, and did not answer whether coaling has occurred at any point since the end of planning permission.
23 January 2023: MTCBC Planning Councillors and Local Planning Authority staff are invited to a webinar on restoration issues from coal mining in South Wales, featuring Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil. Every Council we invited participated in the webinar apart from MTCBC.
27 January 2023: FOE’s Planning Specialist submitted a screening direction request to MTCBC, challenging the Planning Officer’s assessment that a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not needed for the extension application despite the fact that the last EIA is over 15 years old.
30 January 2023: CAN shares Production and Manpower Statistics from The UK Coal Authority spanning the last 6 months of 2022, indicating coal mining at Ffos-y-fran has continued unabated at the site beyond planning permission.
02 February 2023: MTCBC‘s Principle Planning Officer confirms they were unaware of these statistics and would need to investigate them further - “I can then determine whether the matter should be escalated with our enforcement team and what suitable course of action should be taken, pending the outcome of the current planning application”. The Planning Officer reiterated that based on conversations with the mining company, “activity taking place on site, largely [emphasis added] relate to the slippage that occurred in August 2022”.
06 February 2023: CAN requests an update from the MTCBC‘s Principle Planning Officer’s review of the UK Coal Authority’s statistics indicating ongoing coal mining at Ffos-y-fran. No answer was given.
16 February 2023: MS Dawn Bowden’s office shares with us part of MTCBC Local Planning Authority response to their request for an update “At present we are of the view that the works taking place on site largely relates to the slippage and incorporates some restoration works. Should this situation change it would be necessary for us to consider whether a breach in the planning conditions has taken place and whether it would then be expedient to take enforcement action pending the determination of the current application”. This indicates the Local Planning Authority still has not carried out any investigation, and would only consider enforcement after the determination of the extension application.
03 March 2023: Richard Buxton Solicitors, instructed by CAN, email Welsh Ministers and Enforcement at MTCBC requesting immediate enforcement action is taken at Ffos-y-fran to stop the apparent ongoing breach of planning control.
09 March 2023: A MTCBC solicitor answers that “The Council does not consider that it would be a productive use of its officers’ time to provide a detailed response at present to the matters raised in the letter”. The response also reveals that the extension application is due to be considered on 26 April 2023, only after which any issues related to enforcement will be considered. This effectively affords the coal company a de facto, circa 8 month extension—just one month less than what it applied for, and without any democratic process, procedure, or regulatory oversight.
13 March 2023: Richard Buxton Solicitors write to the Welsh Ministers regarding the serious breach of planning control and the Local Planning Authority’s inadequate action to stop it, despite consequences to national-level climate commitments. A response is requested by 20 March 2023.
21 March 2023: Richard Buxton Solicitors write to the Welsh Ministers following up on the missed response deadline. No reply was offered by Welsh Ministers or any representative of the Welsh Government.
18 April: The Coal Authority fail to provide the first quarter of 2023 national coal mining statistics. Statistics for 2022 were used to prove Ffos-y-fran continued coal mining. The Coal Authority weeks later provide only national-level statistics from which it is not possible to isolate what coal is being mined at Ffos-y-fran. The Coal Authority state it will provide the usual break-down but as of 24 May 2023, has not done so.
26 April 2023: MTCBC Councillors unanimously reject the application to extend the Ffos-y-fran coal mine.
02 May 2023: MTCBC rejects demands that it takes immediate enforcement action via a Temproary Stop Notice in light of the Councillors' rejection of the extension.
04 May 2023: MTCBC case officer admits to witnesses coal trucks continuing to leave the Ffos-y-fran coal mine.
08 May - 12 May 2023: MTCBC receives over 7000 emails demanding it stops nearly 1,000 tonnes of coal leaving the mine every day with a Temporary Stop Notice. MTCBC fails to respond.
10 - 12 May 2023: MS Julie James (Minister for Climate Change) and MS Lee Waters (Deputy Minister for Climate Change) receive over 2,000 emails demand they exercise power 182 of the TCPA to intervene and put a stop to this coal mine, given the MTCBC's continuing failure to for over 8 months.
16 May 2023: After communication with CAN, MS Delyth Jewell questions the Welsh Government on its inaction over Ffos-y-fran. MS Lesley Griffiths responds that there doesn't appear to be evidence of continued coal mining, but instead just of coal leaving the site.
19 May 2023: Drone footage seems to evidence the mining and transport of coal to be filtered inside Ffos-y-fran coal mine.
23 June 2023: Coal Action Network obtains an open letter legal opinion from James Maurici (KC) of Landmark Chambers and Toby Fisher of Matrix Chambers, advising amongst other things, that the Welsh Government or Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council should issue a stop notice to prevent the ongoing illegal coal mining at Ffos-y-fran.
23 August 2023: Together with Good Law Project, we instruct Richard Buxton Solicitors - specialists in planning and environmental law - to initiate judicial review proceedings against the Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council for failing to stop the ongoing illegal coal mining.
23 October 2023: A group of over 30 Wales-based NGOs and businesses sign on to a letter to Climate Change Minister Julie James MS and Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters MS demanding the Welsh Government ban coal mining on Welsh soil to avoid another Ffosy-y-fran opencast disaster.
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 sent to the Welsh Government on 11th October 2023.
The Welsh Government already has policies against new and extended coal mines but these are caveated and confusing. The renewed call for a clear coal mining ban comes less than a month after existing policies would have failed to stop a recent bid to reopen the shuttered Glan Lash opencast coal mine in Carmarthenshire. The coal mining company, Bryn Bach Coal Ltd, applied to double the size of the coal mine over six years. Controversially, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Planning Officer advised Councillors in the Officer’s Report, and at the Planning Hearing, that "Overall, it is considered that the proposals would largely meet the criteria of the coal policy" (p66). Ultimately, the application was rejected on the grounds of local ecological impacts—but it has exposed the weakness of existing policies, with the Planning Officer adding that it is “difficult to know for certain how to interpret the coal policy” (p66).
The open letter coincides with the first anniversary of Scotland’s announcement of its own de facto ban on coal mining, in October 2022. Daniel Therkelsen, campaigner at Coal Action Network says “The Welsh Government faces a choice—align itself with the backtracking and flip-flopping of the UK Government, or regain its international leadership position alongside Scotland, as a progressive country of confidence and stability for green industry to thrive.
Welsh Minister for Climate Change, Julie James, wrote a letter to the UK Government in October 2021, lamenting the current policy situation, which “results in both the developer and the Coal Authority committing significant resources respectively to preparing and determining applications”. NGOs and businesses that signed the open letter to Ministers Julie James and Deputy Minister Lee Waters are calling for a clear coal ban that clears up the confusion Carmarthenshire Council identified and the caveats that creates uncertainty and potentially wasted resources for coal mining companies, such as Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd, which also applied for an extension in September last year but was conversely rejected due to the Welsh Government’s coal policies by Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council.
Daniel Therkelsen, Campaigner, Coal Action Network: “The Welsh Government has said their position is ‘clear’, that ‘they want to bring a managed end to the extraction and use of coal’—but their jigsaw of policies on coal is as clear as the coal dust that continues to plague communities living around mines in South Wales, ban new coal mines and extensions and be done with it. Nothing about a ban would prevent access by the Coal Authority to address safety issues.”.
Overview and key facts on Glan Lash opencast coal mine extension application. The extension application was to extract a further 95,038 tonnes of coal (more than the original coal mine, licenced for just 92,500 tonnes).
Key Welsh Government policies relating to coal extraction include:
Planning Policy Wales (Edition 11) s.5.10.14 “Proposals for opencast, deep-mine development or colliery spoil disposal should not be permitted. Should, in wholly exceptional circumstances, proposals be put forward they would clearly need to demonstrate why they are needed in the context of climate change emissions reductions targets and for reasons of national energy security.”
Minerals Technical Advice Note 2: Coal “Government policies and planning guidance on the provision of coal have previously been set out in Mineral Planning Guidance Note 3 (MPG3) published in 1994 for England and Wales. MPG 3 (1994), apart from the Annexes, was cancelled by MPPW. This MTAN supersedes the 1994 Annexes, which are hereby cancelled… This coal MTAN sets out how impacts should be assessed and what mitigation measures should be adopted, and seeks to identify the environmental and social costs of coal operations so that they are properly met by the operator.”
Coal policy statement, 22 March 2021: “The opening of new coal mines or the extension of existing coaling operations in Wales would add to the global supply of coal, having a significant effect on Wales’ and the UK’s legally binding carbon budgets as well as international efforts to limit the impact of climate change. Therefore, Welsh Ministers do not intend to authorise new Coal Authority mining operation licences or variations to existing licences. Coal licences may be needed in wholly exceptional circumstances and each application will be decided on its own merits, but the presumption will always be against coal extraction.”
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. Most of this money will go to converting the sprawling steelworks from its current Basic Oxygen Furnaces to Electric Arc Furnaces. The former produces virgin steel from iron ore, heavily relying on coal for the chemical reaction. Electric Arc Furnaces recycles scrap steel without needing coal. Currently, the UK exports a considerable quantity of scrap steel abroad (over 8 million tonnes in 2021), and scrap steel is expected to greatly increase in abundance globally.
Port Talbot steelworks is currently the 2nd highest source of CO2 from any single site in the UK. Transitioning this steelworks is expected to make a significant impact on the UK’s emissions. Steelworks around the world contribute 11% to global greenhouse gas emissions… rapid decarbonisation globally is essential to limit climate chaos and, alongside electric arc furnaces, alternatives are under development and testing that removes coal from the process of making virgin steel.
However, steelworks employ many thousands of people around the world, whose labour has been essential for everything from vehicles and renewable energy infrastructure to household appliances. It’s essential steel workers and their unions are centred in the changes needed to decarbonise steelworks to ensure a just transition that doesn’t leave these workers behind. The planned decarbonisation of Port Talbot Steelworks has been reported not to follow the principles of a just transition. Instead, the company has reportedly shut unions out of its negotiations with the UK Government and there aren’t any reported programmes of retraining or support packages to equip workers facing redundancy with realistic prospects of finding alternative work that suits their experience or ambitions.
Steel companies in Europe may be amongst the first to decarbonise their steelworks, so it is essential they set a good example for steel companies elsewhere to follow. European steelworks, therefore, must meaningfully engage with their workers and workers’ Unions from the outset of plans to decarbonise steelworks, focusing on those most impacted by potential changes. We are sceptical of top-down consultations on changes which often have foregone conclusions—engagement must be in the form of equal partners around the table. For workers, this can have the advantage of securing packages of support that are appropriate for their needs, whether that is to stay within the company or gain employment in another industry. Worker creativity may also reduce their own job losses and impacts—if they are able to meaningfully shape the transition process. Companies benefit from the creative capacity of workers who have on-the-ground expertise, greater trust in the changes ahead, reputational impacts, better worker morale and loyalty, and the wider fallout that structural unemployment can drive.
British Steel, the UK’s only other producer of virgin steel and operated by Jingye, is also considering converting its steelworks to electric arc furnaces in the hope of accessing hundreds of million in Government funding to decarbonise the steelworks. British Steel has secured a £100 million contract to build one of the world’s biggest offshore wind plants being built at Teesworks. We hope that Jingye actively involves workers at British Steel, and their unions, from the outset of any plans to transition its steelworks.
On the 14th September, a crowd of local residents and supporters assembled on the steps of Carmarthenshire County Council offices. This was on the day of a key decision meeting on the application to extend the Glan Lash opencast coal mine by 6.1 years to mine a further 95,000 tonnes of coal.
So many people came in to the planning committee meeting that the Chair exclaimed “I can see the gallery is comfortably full and that hasn’t happened for many a year!”.
After some presentations, Councillors then voted unanimously to refuse the application, to loud applause. We celebrate that 6.5 hectares of trees, hedgerows, and fields were spared destruction in the refusal of this application. As Cllr Thomas said in the meeting, “Speaking as a farmer…nothing grows [after restoration], the structure is gone… History shows the land never comes back to what it was. I second this proposal to recommend refusal”. This refusal stops any further delay to the restoration of the area already opencast, and creates a commitment to a cleaner, greener Wales.
Cllr Peter Cooper said “We’ve had it for too many years to have the opencast. I’ve worked in opencast. Believe me, the dust - you clean your windows one day, and the next it’s bad again. It will affect them all. I don’t think it’s right that people should have to put up with this again, these people. It’s not necessary.”
Cllr Russell Sparks added “We have no alternative, given the evidence presented to us today to refuse the proposal.”
Coal Action Network will continue to monitor what happens next, but we hope Bryn Bach Coal Ltd will respect the expert conclusions about the local ecosystem destruction from an extension, local democracy, and the 826 written objections to the extension application from local residents. The company should begin work on restoring the site immediately to the specification promised.
Term: 2 days/week (should be available Tuesdays)
Salary: £31,200 FTE (£12,480 pro-rata)/freelance £ 173 day rate
Application deadline: 0900 Mon 02nd October 2023
Background to the role
The UK currently has four coal mines at varying points in the planning pipeline. In December 2022, the UK Government surprised the nation by approving a new coal mine in Whitehaven, West Cumbria. In the same year, a coal mine in South Wales was licenced to operate for nearly 20 years more and double in size. The spectre of new coal mines looms as the UK Government’s opposition to coal weakens with senior politicians in the UK and Welsh Government increasingly repeating industry lies and throwing support behind UK coal mining—a disastrous shift that’ll reverberate through the world.
You will create and deliver a political strategy to secure a moratorium (ban) on all forms of coal mining in the UK Government by January 2026, and the Welsh Government as a secondary goal.
You will work in a team alongside two other coal campaigners. In our non-hierarchical structure you will hold equal agency in decisions affecting the organisation, and, after your probationary period is passed, you will have the option to become a voluntary Co-Director, sharing legal responsibility for the organisation.
If aspects of the Role Description are unfamiliar to you, please see the 'Non-essential' section of the Person Specification for details of what you can learn on the job.
These skills and knowledge will help you in the role, and if you don’t have them we can arrange training for you to learn them:
How to Apply
Please read the Job Description and Person Specification before applying for this role.
Deadline for applications is 0900 Mon 02nd October 2023.
Please send all applications and queries to HR@coalaction.org.uk with the words ‘Policy Change Campaigner’ in the subject line.
Interviews will friendly and informal, taking no more than one hour and be held over Zoom. Please advise us if there are any accommodations you will require in order to attend the interview and participate fully in it. We see the interview as a two-way process, so you’ll be invited to challenge us or ask questions at any point.
Inclusive Hiring Commitment
We particularly welcome applicants from backgrounds currently under-represented in paid roles in the UK environmental movement, including people from BAME and migrant backgrounds, refugee backgrounds, people who identify (or have identified in the past) as working class, gender diverse people, people with disabilities, and people from or based in the North of England, Wales and Scotland.
If our equal opportunities monitoring indicates that we have not received a diverse range of applications then we will re-open the application process, in which case you will be notified and your application will be automatically re-submitted.
If a final decision rests on two applications of equal standard, the principle of ‘positive action’ will be applied with regard to protected characteristics.
Home and office working can be supported with equipment if necessary
We are committed to improving our commitment to diversity and inclusion, and to decolonising the environmental movement. We welcome applications from people who will challenge us to go further in doing this.
Please contact us if you have questions or comments regarding accessibility and inclusivity or about other aspects of the job advert or recruitment process.
Please inform us if you would need paid childcare cover or any adjustments relating to disability in order to attend an online interview.
We are a remote-working organisation of a 7-person staff team, becoming 8-people with this recruitment. This represents significant recent growth for us.
We meet on zoom once weekly as a whole team (Tue afternoon) and ad hoc regarding campaigns. In between we communicate using email and Signal. We meet in-person several times a year.
Apart from one staff member, we all work part time and are supportive of flexible working arrangements alongside core hours. We are sometimes required to work outside of normal office hours, for example to attend events.
We are a non-hierarchical organisation, so we do not have managers or bosses but make agreements and decisions by consensus, and direct our own workloads collectively and individually. We have equal say in decisions affecting our work.
We support our staff with a range of enhanced leave options and employment terms in our contract.
We are registered as a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee and as such are legally required to have directors who take legal responsibility for the organisation. To maintain a commitment to non-hierarchy, all employees are invited to become directors after passing probation, but this is entirely optional.
We recognise that non-hierarchical organisations are not immune to creating barriers to participation in the workplace, so we encourage people to challenge us to improve and adapt our workplace policies, structures, internal communications and working culture to become more inclusive.
The Planning Officer’s Report lends much weight to Bryn Bach Coal Ltd’s (BBCL) claim that most of the coal will be sent to non-burn end-use. BBCL has increased the proportion of coal it claims will go to non-burn end-use in successive versions of its application, without justification for these shifting proportions. The reality is that market conditions and the highest price would determine to which industry the coal would be sold. BBCL could at any time sell the mining rights to another company, as occurs at many coal mining sites, and that new company might choose to sell to other industries or export the coal as the Whitehaven proposal intends to. According to the BEIS Conversion Factors 2022, industrial application of the 94,900 tonnes of coal could total up to 229,000 tonnes of CO2.
Fugitive methane (a potent climate change accelerant) is released from directly from coal mines. Methane that escapes from coal mines globally must fall 11% each year until 2030 to meet IEA’s Net Zero 2030 Roadmap and avoid climate chaos. For each year of the proposed extension, researchers at Global Energy Monitor estimate 108 tonnes of methane will be released into the atmosphere at Glan Lash – totalling some 659 tonnes of methane. Increasing rather than decreasing this globally significant source of methane emissions breaches the IEA’s Net Zero 2030 Roadmap and does not conform to a globally responsible Wales.
The Planning Officer’s Report correctly identifies the shortcomings of the proposed replacement habitats, not least that new plantings are not commensurate with established habitats and the ecosystems they support, but the report stops short of pointing out that the habitats are unique and are not interchangeable and the criticisms of bio-diversity offsets. By way of crude analogy; someone who’s always lived in Carmarthen would not consider it the same if they had their house destroyed in Carmarthen but told they could move into another house in Merthyr Tydfil. We also highlight the Report’s reference to CCC’s independent ecologist’s point that equivalent biodiversity support from a newly planted woodland habitat (assuming it flourishes) will never catch up to that of the destroyed 2.48 Ha woodland habitat, had it not been destroyed – and that it would take 137 years to achieve what is currently supported. We question what the species of animals currently living in the existing habitat are to do for over a century in the intervening period. In a time of widespread habitat pressure, there isn’t clear evidence that animal life can be supported by neighbouring habitats to return later. Local populations, once wiped out, may never return. Growing climate change stresses on ecosystems necessitates established and robust habitats, existing biodiversity cannot wait 137 years for an established habitat. We do welcome the Planning Ecology Department’s determination that permitting this mine would be incompatible with both the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council declarations of a Climate and a Nature Emergency, as well as their respective responsibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
Over 600 letters from Carmarthenshire residents have been sent to the Council in opposition to the opencast coal mine application and a demonstration is planned outside the Council building on the day of the decision meeting to show local support for a greener, kinder future.
The Planning Officer’s Report refers to the company’s claim that the washery and coal mine would employ 11 staff (3 new jobs) for the duration of the proposed extraction and the restoration period following cessation. We want to emphasise that 8 of those jobs, as well as the indirect jobs, are not dependent on the proposed coal mine extension but rather on the washery which has been operating without Glan Lash coal for years. So just 3 new, time-limited, jobs in a declining industry are at stake, and these would be required to restore the site for a period anyway. Jobs planting trees over jobs ripping them up.
FIRST... Coal mining ban proposed by House of Lords
With a margin of 3 votes (197 for vs 194 against) in the House of Lords on 17th April 2023, Lord Teverson amended the Energy Bill to include a new clause on the 'prohibition of new coal mines' (a ban on the Coal Authority licencing any new coal mining in the UK). This wouldn't stop any coal mines already licenced, and would only apply 6 months after the bill had been passed - but it would cut off the pipeline of new coal mine applications. Just one Conservative Lord voted for this amendment - Lord Deben, Chairman of the UK's independent Committee on Climate Change.
Lord Teverson referred to the Whitehaven coal mine, approved in December 2022, when proposing the amendment, saying "If that happens once, it can happen again - that is why this amendment is so important," he said. He had previously believed a ban was not necessary because it was "totally and absolutely obvious" that building a new coal mine "would be a really stupid thing for a country to do".
THEN... Coal mining ban stripped out by UK Government
Back in the House of Commons, the UK Government Ministers stripped out the amendment banning new coal mines at the Committee-stage, before the revised Energy Bill could be debated and voted on in the House of Commons. MP Caroline Lucas said the Government's approach was "well and truly stuck in the last century...after endlessly repeating the importance of no new coal at COP26, its words have proved to be meaningless". Shadow energy secretary Ed Miliband had said Labour would back the ban.
Opposing the amendment, minister Lord Callanan said the government was committed to phasing out coal but argued that an outright ban could cause a "severe weakening of our security of supply".
NOW... Coal mining ban re-proposed by MPs Chris Skidmore & Wera Hobhouse
In the report stage, Conservative MP Chris Skidmore and Libdem MP Wera Hobhouse have attempted to re-introduce the coal mine ban by tabling similar wording as Lord Teverson's amendment to be put back into the Energy Bill (clause N2). MP Chris Skidmore also seeks to strengthen the UK Government's earler commitment to phase out coal being used to generate energy by tabling another clause (N3) - a prohibition of energy production from coal by 1 January 2025. This would change put the UK Government's policy commitment into legally-binding legislation, making it much harder for this or successive Governments to back-track on that commitment.
Amongst other important ammendments, the wording of the two amendments your MP needs to support are:
NC2 Tabled by: Chris Skidmore & Wera Hobhouse
To move the following Clause—“Prohibition of new coal mines
(1) Within six months of the day on which this Act is passed, the Secretary of State must by regulations prohibit the opening of new coal mines and the licensing of new coal mines by the Coal Authority or its successors.
(2) Regulations under this section are subject to the affirmative procedure.”
NC3 Tabled by: Chris Skidmore
To move the following Clause—“Prohibition of energy production from coal
(1) The Secretary of State must by regulations provide for the UK to cease energy production from coal from 1 January 2025.
(2) Regulations under this section may amend primary legislation (including this Act).”
The report stage for the Energy Bill is currently scheduled for Tue 5th September 2023, the day after the House of Commons returns from summer recess, at which point MPs will debate the various amendments tabled to the Energy Bill. The amendment will almost certainly be debated, however there’s no guarantee that it will be pushed to a vote – this depends on a range of different factors, including MPs’ priorities and whether the amendment is selected by the Speaker for a vote.
THE ASK: write to your MP, asking them to speak in favour of amendment NC2 and NC3 during the debate, and to vote for it, if it is "pushed to a division".
We are now able to reveal correspondence between Welsh Minister for Climate Change, MS Julie James, and then UK Government Minister Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth
and Climate Change, MP Greg Hands. In a letter dated 07 January 2022, Minister Greg Hands states:
"I do agree that the Coal Authority’s statutory duty to promote an economically viable coal industry, as set out in the Coal Industry Act 1994, is at odds with our climate leadership ambitions and policies on coal so we are looking at measures to review that duty. I understand our officials have agreed to meet to share our thinking on a future licencing regime that reflects our different administrations net zero and climate change goals."
The amendment(s) proposed by MP Chris Skidmore (and Wera Hobhouse) would achieve what Greg Hands admits is necessary to meet the Government's climate commitments. So why did the UK Government remove Lord Teverson's amendment to achieve the same? What has the UK Goverment done to change the "future licencing regime"?
Welsh Labour Minister for Climate Change in the Welsh Government Julie James wrote to then Secretary of State Department of Business, Energy & industrial Strategy Kwasi Kwarteng in the UK Government on 26 October 2021, stating:
"...we consider the statutory duty of the Coal Authority to develop and maintain a viable coal extraction industry must be removed if we are to achieve our policy ambitions." adding "I seek to understand how the [Coal Industry] Act will be amended to reflect the need for the Coal Authority to consider climate policy in its decisions". Julie James is looking for reform rather than dissolving the Coal Authority, saying "....the Coal Authority has an important role to play in rapidly winding down remaining mining operations and delivering long-term environmental protection. In doing so, the Coal Authority has an important role in ensuring those communities affected by the legacy of coal mining receive a just transition."
Welsh Labour clearly indicate the need to reform the Coal Authority in a way that would stop new coal mine applications being licenced and support existing operations winding down, with a just transition for workers involved.
The need for law change: This year, Coal Action Network took the Coal Authority to the Cardiff Courts in a judicial review challenging the Coal Authority's insistence that it cannot consider matters such as climate change in determining whether to award a coal mining licence. The judge agreed with the Coal Authority, which confirms that legislative reform of the Coal Authority is needed to bring its licencing function in line with climate commitments - such as that proposed in amendment NC2 to the Energy Bill.
Time's running out: Since senior UK and Welsh Government Ministers admitted the need to cut off the pipeline of new coal mining applications, both the UK and the planet experienced its hottest ever days (2022 & 2023), June 2023 was the UK's hottest ever, and July 2023 was confirmed the hottest month worldwide since records began, and this year the world has been rocked by wild-fires, flooding, and storms. So the sense of urgency to ban coal mining and use has become even stronger.
Security of supply concerns: Alongside increasing this escalating urgency, TATA Port Talbot steelworks announcing it will imminently transition to recycling steel or else face closure, and British Steel reporting it will close its coke ovens. A credible home insulation plan would remove any energy security issues for keeping warm this - and future - winters, rather than spending more of my tax money propping up dirty coal power stations again. These are the only significant consumers of coal remaining in the UK so there is no energy security case to be made for continuing to mine coal in the UK.
On 15th and 16th March, Coal Action Network took the Welsh Government and Coal Authority (UK regulator of coal mining) to the Cardiff Court in a judicial review over their respective handling of the Aberpergwm application to extend workings by up to 42 million tonnes of coal and until 2039.
On the 19th of May, The Hon. Mrs Justice Steyn DBE decided in favour of the Welsh Government and Coal Authority, but granted us permission to appeal the decision about the Welsh Government less than 2 weeks later, on 31st May.
The grounds for this appeal are: