On the 14th September, a crowd of local residents and supporters assembled on the steps of Carmarthenshire County Council offices. This was on the day of a key decision meeting on the application to extend the Glan Lash opencast coal mine by 6.1 years to mine a further 95,000 tonnes of coal.
So many people came in to the planning committee meeting that the Chair exclaimed “I can see the gallery is comfortably full and that hasn’t happened for many a year!”.
After some presentations, Councillors then voted unanimously to refuse the application, to loud applause. We celebrate that 6.5 hectares of trees, hedgerows, and fields were spared destruction in the refusal of this application. As Cllr Thomas said in the meeting, “Speaking as a farmer…nothing grows [after restoration], the structure is gone… History shows the land never comes back to what it was. I second this proposal to recommend refusal”. This refusal stops any further delay to the restoration of the area already opencast, and creates a commitment to a cleaner, greener Wales.
Cllr Peter Cooper said “We’ve had it for too many years to have the opencast. I’ve worked in opencast. Believe me, the dust - you clean your windows one day, and the next it’s bad again. It will affect them all. I don’t think it’s right that people should have to put up with this again, these people. It’s not necessary.”
Cllr Russell Sparks added “We have no alternative, given the evidence presented to us today to refuse the proposal.”
Coal Action Network will continue to monitor what happens next, but we hope Bryn Bach Coal Ltd will respect the expert conclusions about the local ecosystem destruction from an extension, local democracy, and the 826 written objections to the extension application from local residents. The company should begin work on restoring the site immediately to the specification promised.
The Planning Officer’s Report lends much weight to Bryn Bach Coal Ltd’s (BBCL) claim that most of the coal will be sent to non-burn end-use. BBCL has increased the proportion of coal it claims will go to non-burn end-use in successive versions of its application, without justification for these shifting proportions. The reality is that market conditions and the highest price would determine to which industry the coal would be sold. BBCL could at any time sell the mining rights to another company, as occurs at many coal mining sites, and that new company might choose to sell to other industries or export the coal as the Whitehaven proposal intends to. According to the BEIS Conversion Factors 2022, industrial application of the 94,900 tonnes of coal could total up to 229,000 tonnes of CO2.
Fugitive methane (a potent climate change accelerant) is released from directly from coal mines. Methane that escapes from coal mines globally must fall 11% each year until 2030 to meet IEA’s Net Zero 2030 Roadmap and avoid climate chaos. For each year of the proposed extension, researchers at Global Energy Monitor estimate 108 tonnes of methane will be released into the atmosphere at Glan Lash – totalling some 659 tonnes of methane. Increasing rather than decreasing this globally significant source of methane emissions breaches the IEA’s Net Zero 2030 Roadmap and does not conform to a globally responsible Wales.
The Planning Officer’s Report correctly identifies the shortcomings of the proposed replacement habitats, not least that new plantings are not commensurate with established habitats and the ecosystems they support, but the report stops short of pointing out that the habitats are unique and are not interchangeable and the criticisms of bio-diversity offsets. By way of crude analogy; someone who’s always lived in Carmarthen would not consider it the same if they had their house destroyed in Carmarthen but told they could move into another house in Merthyr Tydfil. We also highlight the Report’s reference to CCC’s independent ecologist’s point that equivalent biodiversity support from a newly planted woodland habitat (assuming it flourishes) will never catch up to that of the destroyed 2.48 Ha woodland habitat, had it not been destroyed – and that it would take 137 years to achieve what is currently supported. We question what the species of animals currently living in the existing habitat are to do for over a century in the intervening period. In a time of widespread habitat pressure, there isn’t clear evidence that animal life can be supported by neighbouring habitats to return later. Local populations, once wiped out, may never return. Growing climate change stresses on ecosystems necessitates established and robust habitats, existing biodiversity cannot wait 137 years for an established habitat. We do welcome the Planning Ecology Department’s determination that permitting this mine would be incompatible with both the Welsh Government and Carmarthenshire County Council declarations of a Climate and a Nature Emergency, as well as their respective responsibilities under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015.
Over 600 letters from Carmarthenshire residents have been sent to the Council in opposition to the opencast coal mine application and a demonstration is planned outside the Council building on the day of the decision meeting to show local support for a greener, kinder future.
The Planning Officer’s Report refers to the company’s claim that the washery and coal mine would employ 11 staff (3 new jobs) for the duration of the proposed extraction and the restoration period following cessation. We want to emphasise that 8 of those jobs, as well as the indirect jobs, are not dependent on the proposed coal mine extension but rather on the washery which has been operating without Glan Lash coal for years. So just 3 new, time-limited, jobs in a declining industry are at stake, and these would be required to restore the site for a period anyway. Jobs planting trees over jobs ripping them up.
This drone footage shot on 06 April 2023 shows plainly the local environmental impact of the Glan Lash opencast coal mine, and sends a powerful message to Carmarthenshire's Councillors, expected to make a decision in the coming months on whether to allow this local environmental travesty to expand in size and continue for longer. See our quick read on the application. Want to go on a deep dive on the Glan Lash coal mine? Read our report.
The Glan Lash opencast coal mine has been dormant since 2019. Restoring the site will provide employment and environmental benefits. From Carmarthenshire? Email your Planning Councillors through our form below, urging them to make the right decision.
Completing our contact form sends your message to all 20 Councillors on the Carmarthenshire Planning Committee, Council, and us.
Will Councillors reject the application to expand and extend the Glan Lash opencast coal mine, learning from the huge challenges that Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council is having with the illegal Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine?
Put into your own words why you want Carmarthenshire Planning Committee to reject the application - here's some points you might choose to include:
Wrth gwbhau ein ffurflen cyswllt mae eich neges yn cael ei anfon i bob un o’r 20 Cynghorydd ar y Pwyllgor Cynllunio Sir Gâr, Cyngor, a ni.
Bydd y Cynghoryddion yn gwrthod y gais i ddatblygu ac ymestyn y pwll glo cast agored Glan Lash, dysgu o’r sialensau anferth mae Cyngor Bro Sir Merthyr Tydfil yn cael gyda’r pwll glo cast agored anghyfreithlon Ffos-y-Fran?
Rhowch yng ngheiriau eich hyn pam yr ydych chi eisiau i Pwyllgor Cynllunio Sir Gâr i wrthod y gais - dyma rhai pwyntiau gallwch ddewis i gynnwys:
Bryn Bach Coal Ltd submitted an application in 2019 to expand the existing Glan Lash opencast coal mine by 6.68 hectares (originally 7.98 hectares) with the site boundary at 10.03 hectares. The coal operator wants to extract a further 95,038 tonnes of coal (originally 110,000 tonnes, and represents more than the original coal mine licenced for just 92,500 tonnes) over 6.1 years (planning ref. E/39917). This amounts to around 325 tonnes/week. The Standard Mineral Application Form submitted to Carmarthenshire County Council is only partially filled out. There is a pending call-in request (from 03/01/2020) to the Welsh Ministers to determine this application. It could be quashed by Ministers (as of 27/07/2022, the Welsh Ministers are waiting on the Local Planning Authority Officer's report).
There are many calls to reject the proposed expansion on the grounds of climate change, citing Planning Policy Wales (Edition 10). But Llandybie Community Council and Councillor Davies support it—citing jobs, community fund, and repeating the company’s claims of low climate change impact.
Based on the planning permission issued on 25 January 2012, coal mining was to cease by the end of 2016 and progressively restored, with completed restoration by the end of December 2017, followed by a 5-year aftercare period. However, as so often happens, this promised restoration has yet to even be started. Bryn Bach Coal Ltd submitted a Section 73 time-extension application to delay restoration works, which the Council permitted ahead of the coal operator submitted an application to extend mining. As a consequence, the local community has suffered an unrestored coal mine on their doorsteps for almost 5 years whilst the mining extension application is considered. To add insult to this injury, Bryn Bach Coal Ltd also write in their environmental impact assessment (EIA) that the extension applied for would “enable the full restoration of the existing and the proposed extension”, making the completion of the previously promised restoration now appear dependent on profits from the extension—not dissimilar from the narrative in Celtic Energy Ltd’s extension applications.
Bryn Bach Coal Ltd claim Glan Lash produces ‘premium quality anthracite’, without parallel in South Wales—a suspiciously similar claim is also made by EnergyBuild Ltd about their Aberpergwm deep coal mine in South Wales.
Despite admitting that 50% (which the company recently changed to 25% in 2022, without explanation or evidence) of the coal mined would be burned for domestic heating, and failing to account for what percentage is destined for other uses, Bryn Bach Coal Ltd haughtily claim in their EIA “that to refuse planning permission based on the impact our proposal will have on Climate Change and Carbon Emissions would be globally irresponsible.”
Bryn Bach Coal Ltd does not determine global coal market conditions and cannot predict demand of different industries. Ultimately, the company will sell to whoever wants the coal and is offering the highest price for it. There will be nothing in the planning permission that controls how the coal is consumed. Bryn Bach Coal Ltd's claims around this may well just be an attempt to make the mine seem more acceptable to Planning Councillors and the public - don't fall for it.
Council commissioned the independent reviews of the technical reports paid for, and submitted by, Bryn Bach Coal Ltd on how the coal mine extension would impact water flows (hydrology) and the ecology reliant on that in the area. An independent Planning Ecology report in July 2022 recommends rejection of the application to fulfil the Council’s duty to “maintain and enhance biodiversity under Section 6 of the Environment (Wales) Act 2016, Section 6.4.21 of Planning Policy Wales or under Well-being Goal Two of the Well-being and Future Generations Act 2015 (AResilient Wales)”, and points out “documentation provided by the applicant is misleading in places as it makes frequent reference to the restoration of habitats”. In a letter to the Council, Friends of the Earth Cymru precede this independent Ecology Planning report’s conclusions by pointing out that “While mitigation is proposed in the form of restoration and replanting, these trees and associated landscape proposals will take years to grow back to current levels, and existing habitats may not recover”.
The 2018 EIA report paid for by the coal operator, Bryn Bach Coal Ltd, identifies that ancient woodland extends 2.52 hectares inside the site boundary, which would be at risk if the extension goes ahead, but claim the woodland should not be categorised as ancient woodland. The ecologists refute the 2011 classification by Countryside Council for Wales and Forestry Commission Wales, by citing a more obscure historic 1988 source that does not list it as ‘ancient woodland’. In a more recent EIA report by Pryce Ecologists, they stopped using the downgraded term ‘historic woodland’ and stuck to the correct ‘ancient woodland’ classification. This is reinforced by the July 2022 independent Planning Ecology report citing the woodland to be “circa 120 years old” and “cannot be compensated for by the creation of new woodland within a 17-year timeframe”. This is in direct contraction to what was claimed by the Pryce Ecologists EIA report paid for by Bryn Bach Coal Ltd. The independent report goes on to say it would take 120 years for the newly planted woodland to support the same biodiversity, by which time the existing woodland would be 240 years old if it wasn’t removed, and therefore probably still ahead in biodiversity. The independent report is also critical of the 2018 EIA report as ‘The applicant has incorrectly assessed that none of the hedgerows on the site are “important”’, arguing the loss of these hedgerows should be a ‘material consideration when considering this planning application’, particularly as the restoration plan’s “amount of new hedgerow planting is well below the 2:1 ratio associated with habitat compensation and habitat loss” and “40-50% of this planting is in positions where it will contribute little to biodiversity”.
The independent hydrology review commissioned by Council is highly critical of the reports provided by Bryn Bach Coal Ltd, with specific criticisms like “it is my very strong opinion that the information provided is insufficient”, “here appears to have been a complete absence of research on the hydrological management of abandoned mine workings in the area”, and “unsafe assumption[s]”, “I disagree entirely with this statement, and find it hard to understand how the reported data collection exercise could have informed the understanding of whether the marshy grassland is groundwater-dependent to any degree”. Lambasting one of the most recent hydrology reports by Humphries and Leverton in 2022 (again commissioned by Bryn Bach Coal Ltd), the independent review claims “it is based on a wholly inadequate ecohydrological conceptual model, the central limitation being an extremely poor understanding of the hydrogeology of the area … I am strongly of the opinion that the information provided is not sufficient to enable the Local Authority to determine whether or not the proposals will cause significant ecohydrological impacts”. In relation to the restoration plan, the review highlights that the “current claim that sequential backfilling of mined areas will completely restore the original hydrology as the workings move from west to east is, in my opinion, unsafe.”
As a statutory consultant, Neil Bateman responded to the extension application by pointing out that the Planning Policy Wales 10 (para. 5.10.14-15) applies in this case: “Proposals for opencast, deep-mine development or colliery spoil disposal should not be permitted…” (although acknowledging there is ambiguity about whether this applies extensions or only new coal mines). Bateman also highlights that the Minerals Technical Advice Note 2, para. 29 states “coal working will generally not be acceptable within 500 metres (m) of settlements”. The nearest settlement to the extension would be 440 metres, 60 metres less than the stipulation in this policy.
There are many calls to reject the proposed expansion of the Glan Lash opencast coal mine on the grounds of climate change, citing Planning Policy Wales (Edition 10). But Llandybie Community Council and Councillor Davies support it—citing jobs (six), a modest community fund, and repeating the company’s claims of 'low climate change impact'. See our quick read or full overview on the Glan Lash coal mine extension application. Email the Councillors responsible for deciding the fate of this coal mine application.
Coal to be sold: 95,000 tonnes in total - around 325 tonnes per week
Volume of 'overburden' (ecosystem) to be removed to access coal: 2,294,652 m3
CO2: Approximately 229,000 tonnes of CO2 in total (2022 BEIS Conversion Factors)
Methane: 659 tonnes in total - 108 tonnes each year.
Coal operator: Bryn Bach Coal Ltd – since 2012
Type: Anthracite coal
Mining method: Opencast
Claimed destination: steelworks, domestic heating, water filtration, brick colourant etc.
Local Planning Authority: Carmarthenshire County Council
Address: Glan Lash Mine Site, Shands Road, Llandybie, Blaenau, Carmarthenshire SA18 3NA
Physical size: 10.03 hectares with a void of 6.68 hectares
Time: 6.1 years