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Ffos-y-fran, the UK's last opencast coal mine finally shut - we're not celebrating

We're not celebrating...

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:

  • Over 500,000 tonnes of illegal coal
  • Over 1.6 million tonnes of CO2
  • 362 additional deaths from climate change related causes
  • Dust & noise for locals
  • No agreement to fund restoration works

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?

Job losses

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.

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:

  1. a public inquiry into this debacle
  2. the original restoration promised in 2007
  3. the outright ban on coal mining in Wales that's clearly needed

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.

Protest charges

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.

Published: 30. 11. 2023

Mines and Money Conference - ditch the dirty dollars, invest in our future!

We assume our invite got lost in the post...

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:

  1. better closed-loop recycling and reuse
  2. new technologies and the efficiencies they can bring
  3. the eradication of planned obsolescence
  4. a reduction and prioritisation in what we consume

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 (certification@bcorporation.uk), 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).

Published: 29/11/2023

5 Insurers Rule Out Insuring The West Cumbria Mine

On Friday September 15th, as insurers and banks faced a wave of national protest, Coal Action Network announced that five insurers have given guarantees that they will not provide cover for the planned controversial West Cumbria Coal Mine.

The insurers that have ruled out underwriting the mine are AEGIS Managing Agency, Argenta Syndicate Management, Argo, 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.

Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels on September 15-17th saw half a million people joining protests across the globe to call for a just transition away from coal, oil and gas in history, making it the largest climate mobilisation since the start of the pandemic. Over 400 actions, marches, rallies, and events took place around the world, coordinated by more than 780 endorsing organisations with millions of participants taking part. In the UK Protests took place in London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, York, Wrexham, Cardiff, Shrewsbury and Croydon. Hundreds of campaigners from Extinction Rebellion, Mothers Rebellion and Coal Action Network took to the streets assembling with banners and placards, at the doors of financial institutions, yet to rule out supporting the proposed mine.

They were joined by Buddhist and Quaker groups and other members of the local community. Some groups took part in theatrical actions, dressing as canaries to draw the link between the birds used in mines and the toxicity this mine will bring, while others held silent vigils.

Coalition backing a coal mining ban in Wales

Over 30 Welsh NGOs and businesses call on Welsh Government to finally ban coal mining on Welsh soil.

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.

Application to extend coal mine highlights existing policies causing confusion

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).

Call to follow Scotland’s coal mine ban

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.

Minister Julie James recognises resources being wasted

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.

Opinion

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.”.

Extra reading...

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.”

Published: 10.10.2023

Port Talbot steel transition

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.

Big money for big changes

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.

CO2 and the reason for change

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.

What about the workers?

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.

What we advocate for

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

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.

UK Coal round up

The recent Digest of UK Energy Statistics shows the coal situation for 2022. All unreferenced statistics come from this report and appendices.

Coal was bought by power stations last year in order to fulfil unexpected, short term contracts with the government worth £420 million to extend power station's lives while air quality environmental regulations were not enforced.

In 2022, coal mined in the UK mainly came from opencast coal mines. Production was down on previous years. Now, in September 2023, there is only one operating opencast coal mine, the illegal Ffos-y-fran mine. There is one significant sized deep coal mine; Aberpergwm colliery in Neath Port Talbot, which has been granted permission to expand. From this date there is only one coal power station available to generate electricity, down from 4 last year.

Coal use in power stations

While overall energy demand in 2022 was stable compared to 2021, demand met by coal in the energy mix fell by 15% compared to 2021, to 1.60% of total electricity supply. Wind, solar and hydro energy production rose to a record high level due to increased capacity and more favourable weather conditions, but unfortunately consumption of both gas and nuclear energy were also up.

Coal use in power stations has dropped dramatically since 2012, when 43% of electricity in the UK grid was produced from coal combustion. However, 4 coal power plants remained operational throughout 2022. Drax and West Burton power station's coal units were due to be closed before the end of 2022, but the UK Government paid £420 million to extend the operational lifespan of the coal units over winter 2022 into 2023. Coal stocks were 10% higher than in 2021 to facilitate this. Drax didn't operate in 2022 and is now decommissioning its coal units. It remains a high carbon power station, though, as it burns imported wood as biomass.

Power station closures

4 coal power stations operated in 2022. Now only Ratcliffe-on-Soar remains available to the grid.

Ratcliffe on Soar power station is due to close in September 2024.

In early 2020, Drax power station said there would be "formal closure of the coal units in September 2022". Decommissioning actually started in 2023, after the UK Government paid the power station to be on standby with coal during last winter. Drax didn't operate in 2022 and is now decommissioning its coal units. It remains a high carbon power station as, though, it burns imported wood.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is to be converted to gas. It was expected to stop consuming coal in September 2023, but this may have been brought forward marginally (unconfirmed).

West Burton coal power station closed at the end of March 2023 delayed by the UK Government from September 2022.

Coal phase-out in the UK is expected by October 2024. Given that coal consumption in power stations is very low, with periods of no consumption, in the summer, the last generation could be April 2024.

Underground mining

In 2022, coal production fell by 39% to a record low of 0.6 million tonnes, with opencast coal mining producing more than underground mines.[1]

The Scottish Government announced a de-facto ban on coal mining in October 2022, in protest against the expected approval of the Whitehaven coking coal mine. We anticipate this stopped a deep coal mine application by Australian company New Age Explorations at Lochinvar in the Scottish borders. The company hoped to produce coking coal via underground mining until 2044.

Campaigns against proposed underground mines

Aberpergwm Colliery (Energybuild Ltd) in Neath Port Talbot had planning permission for a 42 million tonne extension to its underground (anthracite) coal mine approved in 2018. The Coal Authority issued the coal company a license to extract this coal in January 2022. Coal Action Network are taking legal action against the Welsh Government for failing to stop the mine extension being licenced.

Woodhouse Colliery proposed by West Cumbria Mining Ltd had its proposal for a new 1.78 million tonne per year underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven approved by the Secretary of State in December 2022. The planning approval is subject to 2 legal challenges which are expected to be heard by the High Court in early 2024.

Opencast coal extraction

There are now no legally operating opencast coal mines in the UK.

Glan Lash opencast coal mine, Carmarthenshire (South Wales), had an extension application rejected in September 2023.

In September 2022, Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil, was due to close after 15 years of operation. However, the mine has continued to operate with little action from the local council or Welsh Government. It is now expected to close at the end of November 2023, with no meaningful restoration of the land expected, as the company did not set aside the money to fulfil its contractual obligations in this regard. The guarantee bond of £15 million to be used in case this happens is far short of the estimated £120 million needed for restoration as per the original plan. The coal mining was originally approved by Welsh Government in 2005 as a way to restore a brownfield site at no cost to the public purse, an outcome that now appears remote.

Hartington opencast coal mine, Derbyshire closed at the end of Spring 2023.[2]

Imports

Coal imports rose 38% in comparison with 2021 to 6.4 million tonnes in 2022 as power stations rebuilt stocks after the UK Government payments over winter. The import quantity had been decreasing prior to this government intervention.

In 2022, the USA was the largest exporter of coal to the UK, supplying 39%. This was followed by the Russia with 16%. Russia’s proportion of total coal imports had fallen from being the largest supplier at 43% in 2021.

Coal from the USA was fairly evenly split between coking coal for steelworks and thermal coal for power stations.

Coal from Russia was largely for power stations.

Australia provided 12% of imported coal. 57% of which was for power stations, the rest for steelworks. 10% of coal came from South Africa, which was entirely for power stations. Colombia supplied 7% of imported coal all to power stations.

The European Union supplied 9% of all coal to the UK. This coal is unlikely to have been mined in the EU, it has most likely lost its identity as coal enters and leaves the main coal ports in Europe. Other countries made up the remainder of the imported coal.

The UK banned Russian coal imports in August 2022.

UK steel producers

There are 4 major UK steel producers, 2 of which are using coking coal and produce much higher emissions than the two which recycle scrap steel.

Tata Steel
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide.[3] The plant currently uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces. In 2022, Tata Steel said the plant had to decarbonise or close. In September 2023, Tata Steel accepted £500 million from the UK Government to transition to electric arc furnace, but job losses are expected.

British Steel
Currently, British Steel’s Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen steelmaking. It currently uses coking coal but is also looking to secure governmental subsidies to build a new electric arc furnace to replace a blast furnace in efforts to decarbonise.

Liberty

Liberty Steel, which has sites in Newport and in Tredegar, has said it aims to become a carbon-neutral steel producer by 2030. The site currently uses Electric Arc Furnaces and recycles scrap metal so does not use coking coal.

Celsa

Celsa’s Cardiff steelworks uses 100% recycled scrap steel in its products and so does not need coking coal.

For more details see our report Coal in Steel.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

References

[1] compiled from Coal Authority, "Production and Manpower Statistics" for 2022

[2] Gov.uk "Coal mining production and manpower returns received by the Coal Authority April to June 2023." (July 2023)

[3] Ember, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019)

 

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

Media queries

References

[1] compiled from Coal Authority, "Production and Manpower Statistics" for 2022

[2] Gov.uk "Coal mining production and manpower returns received by the Coal Authority April to June 2023." (July 2023)

[3] Ember, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019)

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

REFUSED: Glan Lash opencast coal mine

Communities gather

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!”.

Planning permission refused!

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.

Councillors speak up

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.”

What next?

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.

Published: 14. 09. 2023

Glan Lash extension to be decided

What's at stake?

Markets and CO2

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.

Methane

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.

Local ecology

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.

Local opinion

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.

Jobs

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.

 

What we're doing

  • We've created a form and encouraged Carmarthenshire residents to share their feelings about the proposed coal mine extension with Councillors through it. This can be used up until the meeting on morning of the 14th September 2023.
  • We've obtained drone footage showing the full scale of the coal mine to help residents and Councillors visualise it.
  • We've created a key facts and figures run-down of the coal mine so anyone can get clued up on the numbers around the Glan Lash opencast coal mine proposal.
  • We've emailed each Councillor who'll be deciding the fate of the Glan Lash opencast coal mine application, highlighting the weaknesses and flaws in the Planning Officer's Report.
  • We've worked with local residents to gather a crowd outside the Carmarthenshire County Council offices at the time of the decision meeting at 1000 on 14 September 2023.

Published: 13/09/2023

Energy Bill - cut out coal!

The journey so far...

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.

What needs to go into the Energy Bill

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).”

Take action

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".

Senior Conservative Minister already admitted need for reform

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"?

Senior Welsh Labour Minister agrees on need for reform

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.

Background

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.

Published: 18.08.2023 Updated: 22.08.2023

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Hope alive for Aberpergwm with appeal acceptance

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:

  1. The Judge erred in law in finding that the Claimant’s interpretation is not retrospective to a degree that would be caught by paragraph 6 of Schedule 7 to the Wales Act 2017, but was nonetheless retrospective because it attached a new disability to “existing rights”.
  2. The Judge erred in law when treating a coal mining licence, with an authorisation which was not in effect, as a possession within the meaning of Article 1 of Protocol 1 of theEuropean Convention on Human Rights (“A1P1”).
  3. In the alternative, the Judge erred in law in:
    1. assuming when considering the degree of unfairness that there would necessarily be a deprivation and, if there were, that the deprivation would necessarily be unfair;and
    2. failing to address proportionality when considering potential application of A1P1and/or the need to strike a balance when applying the common law principle of fairness to statutory provisions with potential retrospective effect.
Published: 17.08.2023