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:
In 2022, we launched a Judicial Review as one of the last chances to stop Aberpergwm deep coal mine extension in South Wales, and keep up to 42 million tonnes of coal in the ground. Many of you donated generously to make that legal challenge possible, and our legal team worked tirelessly to deliver a razor-sharp case. However, on 19th May 2023, the Judicial Review decision upheld the mine to continuing to operate until 2039 to the tune of over 100 million tonnes of CO2.
This judgement comes fewer than two months after the IPCC released a report sounding the ‘final warning’ of irreversible and catastrophic climate change. Although ultimately the judge’s decision upholds the Aberpergwm coal mine in the midst of our climate crisis, the judgment agrees with our legal team on a number of crucial points, creating some optimism around a possible appeal. An appeal is no light undertaking in time and funding… but we need to throw everything we’ve got at stopping this when literally everything is on the line with climate-trashing projects like Aberpergwm coal mine. We’d definitely need your help via a new appeal crowd funder if our expert legal team advise us this is the way to go. If you’re able to chip in to pay for our current legal advice, our judicial review CrowdJustice crowdfunding page is still open.
In 2021, the International Energy Agency set out a pathway to reach net-zero by 2050, in which for both energy generation and the steel industry, “[n]o new coal mines or extensions of existing ones are needed…existing sources of production are sufficient to cover demand through to 2050” (p103). In addition, Port Talbot Steelworks and British Steel steelworks are negotiating with the UK Government to cut coal out of their steel manufacturing. There is no need-case for the Aberpergwm coal mine, whereas the need-case to keep all coal in the ground is a liveable planet.
Progress is uneven and marked by setbacks like this, but we’ve won against 23 coal mines in the UK—there's 4 more to go, and to finally close the door to any new coal mines. We hope you’re with us until the end. Subscribe to our mailing list to keep updated on our campaigns and get involved.
Today (25th April) people dressed as Rebecca Rioters protested against the Welsh Government’s failure to deliver a complete ban on coal mining on the steps of the Senedd (Welsh Parliament). The Rebecca Riots took place between 1839 and 1842 with the destruction of the toll gates which taxed rural people’s produce. The modern ‘Daughters of Rebecca’ dressed in 1800’s costume and demanded Members of the Senedd take urgent action to end coal mining and end the climate toll caused by coal mining and consumption.
Tomorrow (26th April) Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council planning committee will decide whether to allow Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine to continue mining coal until 31st March 2024 before refilling the void they’ve created. The Planning Officer has recommended that the application is refused, as it is not in line with Welsh Governmental policy on coal.
Rebecca from Merthyr Tydfil said, “We live opposite the massive Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine which, despite years of valiant community resistance, was forced upon us in 2007.”
Residents of Merthyr Tydfil have had to suffer its impacts for 15 years of our lives, but not suffered in silence - we've fought it tooth and nail for all those years to try and manage its excesses. We were sickened to have to endure another 8 months of them mining coal illegally, and now the threat of even longer! No more; enough is enough!”
In the 1800s, poor people, in rural west and mid Wales rose up against the punitive toll system that was taxing their produce and destroyed the toll gates, in what is called the ‘Rebecca Riots’. In their footsteps, Coal Action Network and its supporters—modern day ‘Daughters of Rebecca’—are protesting the Welsh Government’s lack of concrete action against coal mine expansion. We are pushing the Welsh government to implement a comprehensive ban on coal mining, as Scotland passed in October 2022.
The original Rebecca Riots were a series of protests and direct action by tenant farmers against the payment of fees to use the roads. During the riots, men disguised as women attacked the tollgates. They called themselves ‘Rebecca and her daughters’, all answering to the name Rebecca for anonymity from prosecution.
Further, the Daughters of Rebecca are calling upon the Welsh Government to prevent the extension at Aberpergwm underground mine, near Glynneath, Neath Port Talbot, to stop its climate toll. Coal Action Network took both the Welsh Government and the Coal Authority to court in March 2023, challenging their permitting Aberpergwm to expand when it goes against Welsh policy and the urgent need to take action on climate change. A judge’s decision is awaited. If she decides that either the Welsh Government or the Coal Authority misjudged their powers the relevant public body will be asked to remake their decision, which could close Aberpergwm coal mine.
We arrived outside the Cardiff courts to press teams and a strong demonstration in support of our case for a more sustainable future in Wales and the UK—one that cannot have coal in it. Welsh people are standing up to say they want to carve out a future that doesn’t carve up more of their land for coal mining, and don’t want Wales to fuel further climate chaos – the effects of which are already being felt there with flooding and storms.
Recommended background: illustrated guide to how a coal mine gets permission in the UK.
Coal Action Network’s Barrister, Estelle Dehon KC—with Richard Buxton Solicitors—opened on the morning of 15th March with a blistering argument laying out what has happened and why:
In the afternoon, the Welsh Minister’s Barrister set out their argument for why the Welsh Government’s approval is not required for the Aberpergwm extension full licence to be valid, and that the Wales Act 2017 cannot be applied.
If the judge accepts that the Welsh Government’s approval (or lack of) applies to the authorisation, then the Wales Act 2017 is applicable, and the Welsh Government’s approval will be needed for the Aberpergwm coal mining licence to be valid.
If the judge instead decides that the Welsh Government’s approval applies to the original conditional licence, then Welsh Government approval isn’t required as the conditional licence dates back to 1996 prior to the Wales Act coming into force.. That would mean that the Aberpergwm coal mine can mine under the new licence, adding up to 100 million tonnes of CO2 and 1.17 million tonnes of methane to our atmosphere.
If the judge accepts that the Coal Industry Act does indeed give the Coal Authority the power to apply other considerations to a coal mine application. The Coal Authority may have to redecide the Aberpergwm application, and it would then be hard for the Coal Authority to ignore that the Welsh Ministers have stated the coal mine extension would be incompatible with Welsh climate targets.
If the judge decides, however, that the Coal Authority can only consider a narrow list of criteria when deciding a conditional or full licence as wider considerations were given in 1996 or 2013. UK law would need to be changed in Westminster to bring the Coal Industry Act in line with the UK Government’s own climate commitments.
A Coal Action Network staff member present at the hearing described said: “It was a real privilege to watch our legal team, Barrister Estelle Dehon KC of Cornerstone Barristers and Matthew McFeeley of Richard Buxton Solicitors, perform with such skilful articulation and clarity in the courtroom today. The case presented showed the flaws in the Welsh Ministers’ and the Coal Authority’s arguments and the barrister for the Welsh Ministers was reduced at one point to arguing to the judge that “her lady should not get caught up on the wording of the law and licence…” (this is literally what the law is based on). We feel confident that our legal team has made convincing and consistent arguments rooted in the law to persuade the judge to find in favour of our claim. We want to thank everyone that supported our crowdfunder to make this hearing possible—we couldn’t have done it without your support”.
Location: Cardiff Civil and Family Justice Centre, 2 Park Street, Cardiff, CF10 1ET
Day: Wed 15th March 2023
Time: starts 0930 – ends 10:00am. (The hearing starts at 10.30am)
Demonstration in support of a 2-day court hearing to rule that the Welsh Government can apply its strong policy against coal mining to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion in Glyn Neath. Show up to show the Welsh Government that you care about fossil fuels and the climate change it drives.
What to bring:
Placards and banners about climate change and fossil fuels, particularly coal. Please don’t bring things that have groups’ logos on – we want this demonstration to be about the issue, not about who’s campaigning on it.
Wales won the freedom to decide its own future on coal mining under The Wales Act 2017. The Welsh Government has a strong policy against mining coal on Welsh soil, and we’re here to support that policy being applied to the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion. Since 2021, the Welsh Government has told the press that its hands are tied because of a legal detail about the Aberpergwm expansion application. Yet, the UK Government, the UK Coal Authority, and even the Parliamentary Welsh Affairs Committee Chair all went on record to say it is for the Welsh Government to decide the fate of the licence to expand the Aberpergwm coal mine. Neither side could agree, and during months of finger-pointing in the press, neither side sought a definitive legal ruling on it either—and the Aberpergwm coal mine extension slipped through.
So Coal Action Network has crowdfunded this judicial review in the hope that the Cardiff Court finds the Welsh Government’s approval is needed for the Aberpergwm expansion licence to be valid. The Welsh Government will then be free to apply its policy against coal to create a greener, cleaner future for Wales.
We're holding a briefing in the Senedd on 30th November. Invite your Members of the Senedd to this hybrid in-person/online event!
We want as many MSs, and their advisors, there as possible. Personal invites from constituents show that this is a pressing issue needing their attention which could make the difference as to whether they attend.
Send a quick email to your MSs and ask them to come. A sample letter is below - personalise it or write your own entirely.
Dear [insert name],
I'm concerned that there are three coal mines in Wales which are looking to increase their coal extraction and operating period. These are Aberpergwm underground anthracite coal mine near Glynneath, Neath Port Talbot; Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine near Merthyr Tydfil and Glan Lash opencast coal mine, near Ammanford, in Carmarthenshire.
We are facing a climate crisis, the greatest historical cause of which has been coal consumption. It's time for Wales to decarbonise, not allow more coal.
Please confirm if you intend to attend an upcoming briefing session in the Senedd on this critical subject. Here are the event details:
|Fe’ch gwahoddir i fynychu||You are invited to attend|
|Sesiwn briffio gyda Coal Action Network, Swyddfa Comisiynydd Cenedlaethau’r Dyfodol Cymru, UBI Lab Cymru, a Chyfeillion y Ddaear Cymru.||A briefing session with Coal Action Network, Office of the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, UBI Lab Cymru, and Friends of the Earth Cymru.|
|Byddwn yn trafod incwm sylfaenol a'r newid i economi ddi-garbon, a’r sefyllfa diweddaraf ar ehanghu pwll glo Aberpergwm.||We will discuss basic income and the transition to a zero carbon economy, and the latest on the expansion of Aberpergwm colliery.|
|30 Tachwedd 2022, 1030-1130||30 November 2022, 1030-1130|
|Ystafelloedd Cynhadledda C&D a Microsoft Teams||Conference Rooms C&D and Microsoft Teams|
|Noddir gan Jane Dodds AS||Sponsored by Jane Dodds MS|
|RSVP Rhys.Taylor@Senedd.cymru||RSVP Rhys.Taylor@Senedd.cymru|
[Insert name and address]
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.
Our legal team has been informed that our legal challenge will be heard by a senior High Court judge on 15th-16th March 2023. Permission to proceed to a full Judicial Review in the High Court indicates we have a solid case and puts us an important step closer to reversing January's decision to licence a 42 million tonne expansion of the Aberpergwm coal mine. Our crack legal team, Richard Buxton Solicitors and Barrister Estelle Dehon QC, will challenge the parts that The UK Coal Authority and the Welsh Government played in this disastrous licence slipping through.
Coal Action Network held an informal briefing in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) sponsored by Jane Dodds, Member of the Senedd (MS).
The event was attended by MSs and their staff who heard why the proposal to extend Aberpergwm coal mine should be stopped and how Universal Basic Income could answer some of the issues for workers during the transition to a low carbon economy.
On 15 March 2023, we arrived outside the Cardiff courts for the Judicial Review hearing, to press teams and a strong demonstration in support of our case for a more sustainable future in Wales and the UK. We feel confident that our legal team made convincing and consistent arguments rooted in the law. A decision should be made by the judge in 2 weeks to 3 month from today. Read more...
On 19th May 2023, the Judicial Review decision upheld the mine to continuing to operate until 2039 to the tune of over 100 million tonnes of CO2. This judgement comes fewer than two months after the IPCC released a report sounding the ‘final warning’ of irreversible and catastrophic climate change. Although ultimately the judge’s decision upholds the Aberpergwm coal mine in the midst of our climate crisis, the judgment agrees with our legal team on a number of crucial points, creating some optimism around a possible appeal. We'll need to weigh up time and funding with the chance of a successful outcome. Read more...
Coal & refuse to be excavated: 72 million tonnes in total - 30 million tonnes of which will be "middling" coal to be dumped or put back into the coal mine.
Coal to be sold: 42 million tonnes during the life of the extension
Methane: up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane, a powerful climate accelerant
The planning application said power stations and steel works. With Aberthaw power station closed, Energybuild now talks of Pulverised injection for steelmaking, household heating, cement, and water filtration.
County Council Local Planning Authority: Neath Port Talbot
Address: Glynneath, Neath, SA11 5AJ
Physical size: Because this is an underground mine, much of the excavation would be invisible but very real, as communities victim to flooding mine shafts have experienced. The underground tunnelling has permission to extend to 2.3km squared, taking you roughly half an hour to walk from one side of the tunnels to the other. And this doesn’t factor in the vertical shafts, sending offshoots that go beneath the River Dulais.
Time: Planning permission to mine coal until 2039 (this is often subsequently extended).
... 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, and about how you can take action as people living near Aberpergwm.
Aberpergwm has permission to extract over 40 million tonnes of coal over 18 years: 2.33 million per year. The mine is set to expand under Seven Sisters , Treforgan and Crynant and up to Varteg Hill to the West.
According to legal advice received by the Coal Action Network, the Welsh Government should have intervened to stop the mine AND the Coal Authority could have taken the mine's climate change impacts into account before granting it permission. As a result the mine is up for debate in court.
Allowing the mine contradicts both the UK and Wales' climate commitments, the Wales Future Generations Act and the Welsh Planning Policy Framework
This increase would mean:
There are no plans to increase the number of jobs.
Jobs that are promised are precarious because...
The company paint a picture of an expanding global market for their coal for water filtration, securing jobs into the future.
But the quality of the coal in this seam makes it unsuitable for water filtration as the company claim . The nine foot coal seam in this area has a lower carbon content than that needed for water filtration . So only a tiny percentage of the coal, if anything, can be used for this.
Instead Aberpergwm is predicated on the future of coal in steel production, which is not at all secure 
Steelworks using coal are some of the UK's biggest polluters; Tata Neath Port Talbot is by far the biggest single site source of greenhouse gas emissions in Wales  and Aberpergwm proposes to continue contributing to that for another 20 years
Meanwhile, scientists agree that no new coal can be extracted anywhere in the world if we are to stay below 1.5 degrees of warming  which is considered the safe limit for life on the planet..
Furthermore, the coal in the mine is anthracite, which results in a high-methane producing operation. The 1.17 million tonnes of methane that would be released if this coal is to be mined would act quickly on the atmosphere, as methane is 80 times more powerful than CO2.
Flooding events like those seen in the Neath Valley, and other catastrophic climate events globally are set to become more frequent if current levels of methane and greenhouse gas emissions are maintained
Local residents told The Guardian that the mine is "Not the future we should be going for".
Couldn't there be a long-term and green source of jobs for Glynneath, Cwmgwrach, Blaengwrach and the Neath Valley?
Blaengwrach resident Emma Eynons told CAN:
The communities in my local area have been suffering for many years with a lack of investment by the Welsh Government.
We live in an area of outstanding beauty, and of scientific interest, with so much wildlife and natural resource all around us. We would love to share our beautiful home with the rest of the world and establish a thriving community.
We want tourism, small business growth, regeneration plans which will mean real jobs with futures as we move forward. A community transport scheme would alleviate the social problems faced by our isolated residents
As a traditional mining community, of course we should celebrate our proud history of mining achievements. However, I would ask the Welsh Government to consider what the future of our communities should be.
It's really easy to write to Lee Waters MP: Wales' Deputy Minister for Climate Change. The Welsh Government needs to hear personal letters from local residents and people in South Wales.
You don't have to say very much, you just need to show you care, and pick one or two facts or themes from this page in your own words. Three sentences are enough!
Steps to write to Lee Waters MP:
Please send any replies you recieve to firstname.lastname@example.org
1Planning Application P2014/0729 Mining Zones Map (Neath Port Talbot Council planning portal)
 Channel 4 News: https://www.channel4.com/news/are-cop26-promises-on-coal-being-broken (04.02.22)
 Wales carbon budgets/targets March 2021: https://gov.wales/climate-change-targets-and-carbon-budgets
 Core samples show 88.3% fixed carbon content https://orca.cardiff.ac.uk/115771/1/Zagorscak%20and%20Thomas%20(2018).pdf (126)
 In excess of 95% fixed carbon content: https://mineralmilling.com/anthracite-filter-media/
 Coal in Steel : Problems & Solutions (Coal Action Network)
 Wales carbon budgets/targets March 2021: https://gov.wales/climate-change-targets-and-carbon-budgets
Channel 4 News report, research provided by Global Energy Monitor https://www.channel4.com/news/are-cop26-promises-on-coal-being-broken (04.02.22)
Under direction by grassroots campaign organisation, Coal Action Network, Barrister Estelle Dehon has sent a letter-before-action to the Welsh Government and the Coal Authority on the grounds that:
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 to stop this climate calamity whilst there is still the opportunity to do so. Our pre-action letter also identifies why The Coal Authority, hosted by BEIS of the UK Government, isn’t bound by the narrow set of criteria it claims to be, and could, for instance, site climate change as a reason to withdraw this licence and reject future coal mining licence applications, becoming an ally to our climate commitments rather than an undermining force.
Coal Action Network tried to avoid legal action, with supporters sending over 4000 emails to Lee Waters of the Welsh Government and Michael Gove of the UK Government, urging them to come to work together and arrive at a common understanding as to which could intervene on the pending licence to extend the Aberpergwm colliery—and then take that action to stop the licence before it’s granted. However, along with our open letter, Ministers ignored thousands of concerned members of the public. As Ministers refuse to respond to the public’s and civil society’s concerns, we must resort to this legal action.
We hope that the Welsh Government and The Coal Authority act swiftly to stop this coal mine, in accordance with the legal grounds identified within the pre-action letter. This may avoid the need for a judicial review. But we cannot allow it to go unchallenged, that every institution and individual involved has shrugged off the responsibility for committing us to the extraction of 70 million tonnes of coal, selling 40 million tonnes of coal, and the release of 1.17 million tonnes of methane and c.100 million tonnes of CO2. This is a terrible climate injustice, it must be stopped, and those responsible must be held to account. The time to draw a line in the sand is now. No new coal mining for any purpose. And the IEA agrees with us (p103).
If we must resort to a judicial review to prevent this coal mine, we intend to crowd-fund it and we hope you’ll share it widely. As well as stopping this coal mine extension, a successful legal challenge will dissuade the other coal companies which have conditional licences from the Coal Authority to attempt new coal mines. We would significantly raise the bar against new coal mines.