Bedwas coal tip: a new frontier for coal in South Wales?

Key project details

Background and key figures

'Energy Recovery Investments Ltd' is proprosing to extract coal from large coal tips created by the Bedwas Colliery (1913 - 1985) in Bedwas, Caerphilly, South Wales over an operational period of 7 years (but this is often extended later). The company claims that it would use some of the sales of the coal to restore those coal tips afterwards. Based on historical estimates, the total volume of the Tips is approximately 5,000,000m³ which equates to around 8,500,000 tonnes of colliery spoil. The company claims that it expects to haul 468,000 tonnes of coal off the site via 20-tonne heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), driving further climate chaos by over 1.3 MILLION tonnes of CO2.

Tip dangers

The Tips are classified as Category D which is defined as “A tip with the potential to impact public safety, to be inspected at least twice a year.”. The main risks associated with Bedwas are understood to be risk of tip fire and contamination of local watercourses (including Rhymney River), with land stability being of a lesser concern.

Potential coal destinations

'Energy Recovery Investments Ltd' has not disclosed what proportions of coal will be sold to which market but does indicate "ERI’s proposal is to sell on these stockpiles of coal to heavy industry, the cement manufacturing industry and potentially energy production industry...", and elsewhere cite the steel sector and brickworks as potential customers.

Roads, HGVs, and 16-hour days

The company would need to build a new section of haul road 575m long and 6m wide cut into the rock, and widen the existing forest track - possibly at the loss of trees bordering the road.  It would involve works on setting up the site starting at 6am and continuing into the night until 10pm (16 hours/day, 15 hours every Saturday, and only Sunday without works) for 6-9 months (but this is likely to be extended, as is common for projects like this). Outside of these hours, maintanence works could still occur, according to the company. The company estimates an average of 90 hauls by HGVs per week to occur over the seven years operational period. This is equivalent approximately to 18-20 hauls HGVs going to and from the site every day.

On a mobile? Check out our YouTube short of the Bedwas Tips for mobile.

Corporate spin

The coal tips lie above a coal seam, which the company claims it would coincidentally have to dig into to create 'lagoons' for processing the coal from the coal tips. That's right, Energy Recovery Investments Ltd claims it needs to mine the coal in the seam, creating a further coal tip, in order to mine the coal in the coal tips already created. The company is trying to rebrand the coal mined from the tips and from digging the lagoons, as 'reclaimed' and 'incidental' coal respectively, in an attempt to get around Welsh Government policies against further coal extraction.

Energy Recovery Investments Ltd creates a new name for the coal it proposes to mine: "Reduced Carbon Coal" - a name based on the claim it could displace coal imported with the associated travel miles. This is an old argument that has been debunked many times. See our video with Economics expert, Prof. Paul Ekins or our myth-buster.

The company is so keen to distance this project from a coal mine, it has gone into greenwash overdrive - refusing to even call a coal washery by its normal name, and instead rebranding it as a "beneficiation/processing plant.

With absolutely no evidence or calculations, Energy Recovery Investments Ltd makes the outlandish claim in its planning statement that any, eventual and additional, 'carbon sink' like properties of the site after operations have finally ceased may offset the processing and extraction of the coal, transport by deisel HGVs, and end use.

Energy Recovery Investments Ltd presents the mining of coal as "a beneficial by-product of the tip reclamation process". It's the very objective of this company to generate a profit for itself from the mining of the coal tips - it is very far from being a by-product.

Energy Recovery Investments Ltd claims that a proportion of its coal will be used at steelworks, necessary for green infrastructure - a common argument which is even less true today than it was previously, as both virgin steelworks in the UK converts to using processes for producing steel from scrap that doesn't rely on coal inputs, ending the UK steel market for coal.

The company behind the proposal unmasked

Energy Recovery Investments Ltd is a small company with assets valued at £114,000 in its 2022 annual financial accounts on Companies House – but only £9,000 cash assets. This is concerning as there would be limited scope to recover damages if mistakes are made or the company refuses to remediate the coal tips after extracting profitable coal from them.

The company was registered in 2008 and “the principle activity of the company is the recovery of coal from redundant coal tip sites”. But since 2012, the company has idled with zero staff until employing just 2 staff a decade later in 2022. Energy Recovery Investments Ltd has only operated one other site, in 2008, Six Bells and Vivien Tips near Abertillery, South Wales - which it extracted 260,000 tonnes of coal from over 2.5 years, by subsequently getting permission to opencast coal mine one end of the site.

Despite all its efforts to distance itself from coal mining, Energybuild Ltd (the coal mining company at Aberpergwm) has previously been a major shareholder in Energy Recovery Investments Ltd.

PPM Holdings Limited – holding company of ERI Ltd

ERI Ltd is the wholly owned subsidiary of PPM Holdings Limited, a company incorporated in just 2022 with no published company accounts and currently registered as a ‘non-trading company’. The current Director of PPM Holdings Limited, Sian Thomas, was previously Director of Green Steel Works Ltd, which deals with ‘Remediation activities and other waste management services’ and is the official office address for Energy Recovery Investments Ltd. This kind of complicated and confusing corporate structure is typical of mining companies, and has been used in the past to evade corporate accountability. The other Director of PPM Holdings Limited is Mark Harvey, is a Director of 6 companies dealing with mineral waste disposal and storage, and real estate.

Learning from Ffos-y-fran

This proposal has strong similarities with the sprawling Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine. The sale of the coal from this mine was to pay for the restoration of a neglected hill in Merthyr Tydfil to the extent the coal mine was even branded as the "Ffos Y Fran Land Reclamation Scheme". Yet, the profits from 16 years of coal mining has been put of reach, and the local Council faces up to £120 million shortfall to pay for the much greater restoration works now needed. We don't want Bedwas to become the next Ffos-y-fran disaster.

A dangerous precedent

With over 300 at-risk coal tips registered across South Wales, and financial shortcomings to pay for their remediation, the concern is that the Bedwas coal tip is a testing ground for remediating the remaining coal tips. This would be disasterous for our climate and represent total contempt for the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act. The company has presented a planning statement littered with the tired justifications of mining companies. Stay tuned as we ask for your help in this campaign.

Published 26. 02. 2024 Updated 18.03.2024

Charges dropped for activists blocking Ffos-y-fran coal mine

XR press release:

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped all charges against the four Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists who blockaded the entrance to the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine, last summer with a pink boat.

While removing the immediate burden of legal confrontation for the defendants, the decision has left a “crater of unfinished business” in the fight for climate justice and accountability for local residents..

“The action was always designed to have a much deeper impact beyond the immediate disruption with a pink boat,” explained Liz Pendleton, one of the four defendants who occupied the site for over 24 hours in July 2023. “It was designed to expose the alleged illegal activities and environmental negligence of the mining operation, in particular, its continued operation beyond permitted planning conditions and contradictory and misleading financial statements which may well constitute fraud.”

The Ffos-Y-Fran mine in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales had been operating without a licence for almost ten months when XR activists took direct action.

“By denying us our day in court the CPS has denied us the opportunity to shine a light on this potentially illegal and criminal operation,” said Liz.

The legal proceedings revealed a shocking lack of cooperation from the mine, including failure to provide basic operational logs, communications between the mine and governmental bodies, and internal documents relating to the financial and environmental management of the mine's operations. This critical information would have shed light on the legal position of the operation and whether funds had been set aside for environmental restoration - which was a condition for the getting the go ahead in the face of overwhelming local opposition. The defendants were also confident this would have led to their acquittal.

The dropping of the case also casts doubt on the legitimacy of the arrests, as in the case of aggravated trespass the police can clearly be seen acting in the interests of corporate bodies who then fail to prove that they themselves were carrying out lawful activities.

The discontinuation of charges is a testament to the strength of the activists case and the shaky foundation upon which the mine's operations stood, explained Raj Chada from Hodge Jones & Allen, representing the defendants:

“In seeking disclosure from the CPS, we highlighted the need for transparency on several critical points. Our requests were aimed at uncovering potential evidence of the mine operating beyond legal scrutiny, which raises concerns about the legality of its operations. The CPS's inability to meet these disclosure obligations casts a shadow over the proceedings and suggests that the depth of the mine's legal and environmental mismanagement may be greater than previously understood.”

For over a decade and a half, the Ffos-Y-Fran mine has been a symbol of the environmental and social challenges that face communities at the ‘coal face’ of climate degradation. The abrupt end to this case marks not a clear-cut victory but a complex milestone in the ongoing struggle. While it spares the defendants the strain of a continuing court battle - already exceeding seven months in duration - it denies the platform to publicly expose the depth of negligence and alleged fraud by the mine's operators, Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd., including their failure to fulfil obligations towards land reparations and the creation of green jobs.

Speaking upon hearing the news, local resident and defendant Marcus Bailie commented: “Our fight was not just against the physical act of coal extraction but against disregard for the land's future and the community's well-being. The piles of coal and the colossal scar on the landscape left behind serve as stark reminders of the environmental impact that has yet to be addressed. The real victory would have been to hold those responsible to account in a public forum, forcing a reckoning with the consequences of their actions.” Marcus went on to say, “We’re not the criminals here!”

Chris and Alyson Austin, residents of Merthyr Tydfil who have been campaigning for years for the mine to be closed said: “We feel angry and betrayed about the waste-land they have left behind.”

The bittersweet outcome underscores the resilience and dedication of activists and the broader environmental movement. It also highlights the complexities of seeking justice in a system where procedural technicalities can overshadow substantive issues. The fight for the Ffos-Y-Fran mine was never just about legal vindication; it was about bringing to light the injustices inflicted upon nature and communities - and campaigners promise, it won’t end here.

For further information, quotes, or to arrange interviews, please contact: | +44(0)7756136396

Published: 26. 02. 2024

Welsh position on a coal ban needs to change

A response from the Welsh Climate Change Minister

Open letter to the Welsh Climate Change Minister... and their reply in full

(Click for PDF)

Open letter

Minister's reply


On 23 October 2023, over 30 Wales-based NGOs, businesses, and community groups signed an open letter to Wales’ Climate Change Minister, Julie James, calling for the Welsh Government to ban coal mining once and for all (sent by Climate Cymru). On 10th January 2024, Julie James wrote back—but claims a ban isn’t needed, even though 1.6 million tonnes of CO2 could have been prevented since 2022 if the Welsh Government had adopted a ban. That failure has caused 362 additional deaths from climate change related causes. Julie James’ claims just don’t stack up against those lives lost. Here’s why:

What the Minister didn’t respond to

The open letter to Julie James highlighted that an issue with the current policy is that it is riddled with caveats and exceptions. Carmarthenshire County Council’s Planning Officer even wrote in September 2023 that it was “difficult to know for certain how to interpret the coal policy”. Julie James failed to respond to this point entirely. A clear ban would remove the existing ambiguity that makes the current policy challenging to apply.

Julie James also did not respond to our point that Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd would not have been able to mine 500,000 tonnes of coal from Ffos-y-fran over the past 1.5 years if there was a clear ban on coal mining. The mining company exploited the exceptions in existing policies to secure a de facto extension. To protect against this climate assault recurring by closing the loopholes, a clear coal ban is needed now.

In the open letter to Julie James, it’s stated “A coal mine ban can be drafted is such a way that allows for the safe winding down of existing coal mines, and Coal Authority access to fulfil its regulatory duties”. That didn’t stop Julie James trying to use that against a ban anyway: “we also have a duty to manage the safe closure and restoration of existing and historic mining infrastructure”. Julie James accompanies this with a reason that’s even more bizarre: “The incidental extraction of limited coal may also be required during the construction of infrastructure projects”. Those wouldn’t be coal mines so wouldn’t fall under a ban—the Coal Authority even licences this differently as an ‘incidental coal agreement’. The burden and hazards of historic mines across Wales would diminish under a coal ban, rather than risk being added to—a very real risk in light of Ffos-y-fran.

The Minister's presumptions against a coal mine ban

Julie James says “…coal licences may be needed in wholly exceptional circumstances and each application will be decided on its own merits”. But this creates exactly the problem that Julie James lamented in her letter in October 2011 to then Minister for BEIS Kwasi Kwarteng: "both the developer and the Coal Authority committing significant resources respectively to preparing and determining applications... before Welsh policy can properly be applied”. A coal ban would end the pipeline of applications, and the private and public funds they waste.

Julie James twice hails “the presumption being against extraction” in current policies. We hope it’s not presumptuous to argue for a commitment stronger than a ‘presumption’ in the face of catastrophic climate change. What justification could opening a new coal mine have in the face of the 362 lives that’ll be cut short due to the Welsh Government’s refusal to ban coal mines up until now? Climate vandalism over the past year shows nothing short of a ban on coal mining can protect the lives and ecosystems at stake.

Finally, Julie James concludes her letter by claiming the “Welsh Government has adopted and implemented the strongest policy opposition to coal extraction across the UK Governments”. Even if that were true, the Welsh Government clearly needs to go further given current policies have failed to prevent 1.6 million tonnes of avoidable CO2 in the past 1.5 years. But it’s also not true. Julie James’ claim to be leading on a progressive coal policy is based on her comparison to a similar one set out in the Scottish Parliament back in November 2021. She ignores the de facto ban that the Scottish Government more recently introduced in October 2022—as referenced in the open letter to Julie James. If Julie James actually wants the Welsh Government to boast the strongest policy opposition to coal mining, she’ll have to be bolder by committing to a ban on coal mining in Wales.

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.


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 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, the ultimate owner of the proposed West Cumbria coal mine (WCM), was attending in the desperate hope of raising the £230 million still needed to start the WCM. So local campaigners from Cumbria came all the way to London to deliver a message to potential investors in WCM—steer clear! To further ruin EMR Capital PTY’s plans, they also handed investors a risk assessment, provided by BankTrack, outlining risks specific to the proposed WCM proposal. Two other coal mining companies were present at the conference too.

There’s many alternatives we must take instead of clawing the ground up to reach the minerals 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 (, 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.


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]


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 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’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.

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

[2] "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


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

[2] "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