Finite: the Climate of change – watch from home

We’re excited to let you know that you can finally watch FINITE online now on Vimeo On Demand, by renting or buying the film.

FINITE: The Climate of Change is an inspiring insider’s view of communities in the UK and Germany putting their bodies on the line to fight back against coal mining. Featuring Coal Action Network alongside local people in the Pont Valley, Durham. FINITE is an authentic and emotional insight into the David and Goliath battle between frontline communities and activists on one side, and coal mining corporations on the other.

A masterpiece: powerful, inspiring, uplifting. Please watch it.”


Currently the COP28 climate summit is taking place in Dubai. December 7th, marks a year since the UK Government approved a new underground coking coal mine in Cumbria. Since then, the Government has encouraged new oil and gas extraction. Action against fossil fuels remains a necessity.

The wider story of the Pont Valley can be found here.

In the words of an activist in FINITE:

"climate conferences are not going to save us, we have to save ourselves"

📣 If you think this story is important, please help us spread the word. 📣

Share the film on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Enjoy the film!

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 [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 (, 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.

EACOP: Global Day of Action against Chinese involvement in the pipeline

On 20th of November 2023 members of Coal Action Network, StopEACOP UK and Extinction Rebellion held a protest against Sinosure – a Chinese-state owned insurance company with ties to the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). The global day of action saw protests in London alongside those in Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa and Washington DC.

If built, EACOP, majority-owned by French oil company Total, would be the longest heated oil pipeline in the world. However, it has so far been blocked from construction. The project has faced difficulties raising finance and getting insurance after sustained campaigning efforts resulted in numerous banks and insurers committing to rule it out. This is why the Ugandan government has, in an act of desperation, now turned to Chinese institutions to prop it up.

Today’s global actions focused specifically on the state-owned China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure), the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim), and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Sinosure is said to be in advanced talks with the Ugandan government about providing credit for the project.

In London, protesters dressed in iconic Total red boiler suits and held banners saying “Solidarity with East Africa” and “Sinosure drop EACOP”. The group protested for an hour and handed in a petition signed by thousands of directly impacted citizens opposed to the planned 1443 km pipeline. They were met with two police vans and eight police officers blocking the main door to the Sinosure building at 85 Gresham Street, London. This made for a ratio of two or more police officers per protester. Meanwhile, in Uganda seven activists were arrested for holding an anti-EACOP banner.

Clearly, banks and insurers are afraid of people-power, and are trying to push carbon bomb projects through  at the cost of human freedom and natural ecosystems.

However, activists see a golden opportunity to delay and ultimately stop EACOP. According to recent reports, 100km of the pipeline has been produced by Chinese manufacturers and is being shipped to Tanzania, while wells are being drilled in Kingfisher and Tillenga oil fields in Uganda. But, EACOP cannot get its crucial funding without Sinosure’s support, who are expected to make a decision by April 2024 after repeated delays.

The powerful work of campaigners and frontline communities has stopped EACOP in its tracks time and again. As we approach the New Year, the movement is ready to end this project for good and amplify the African voices calling for green jobs and a safe future.

Protest in front of Sinosure offices London 20.11.23

Occupied! Protesters occupy the offices of City Of London insurers demanding they rule out backing for climate-wrecking projects

On 18th October dozens of protesters staged a sit-in occupation of the plush City of London offices of ten Lloyd's of  London insurers demanding they rule out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).

In collaboration with Fossil Free London’s “Oil Money Out” and standing in solidarity with South African activists in Johannesburg, protesters gathered first at Standard Bank then marched waving banners saying “Don't Insure EACOP' and “Don't Insure West Cumbria Mine” to three high profile buildings including the “Walkie Talkie”.

In a simultaneous action others entered the office foyers of Talbot, Chaucer, Ascot, Markel, Allied World, CNA Hardy, Tokio Marine Kiln, and Sirius International and Lancashire Syndicates and refused to leave.

Community members from Cumbria and Uganda joined the protest, sharing the united call to insurers and banks to stop underwriting deadly fossil fuel projects. The West Cumbria Mine will break the UK government’s legally-binding net zero emissions target and the massive 1443 km East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline will wreak havoc on communities, jeopardise ecosystems and water supplies and eliminate the possibility of Earth remaining habitable. There can be no new fossil fuels anywhere if global heating is to remain under 1.5C. Neither project will be able to go ahead without financial backing.

The protesters were joined by Patience Nabukalu, a youth activist from Fridays for Future Uganda who said:
“We have gathered here today to demand that insurers cut ties with the EACOP. By supporting this deadly fossil fuel project they undermine any climate commitments they have made. People in Uganda are facing human rights violations in the name of this project. This has to end.”

Insurers from Lloyd’s of London have come under increasing pressure to rule out offering insurance to both the West Cumbria coal mine and EACOP, facing protests at offices across the UK with hundreds of students entering the job market refusing to work for them.

Claude Fourcroy, a spokesperson for Money Rebellion said: “We are calling on all the banks and insurers behind the West Cumbria mine and East Africa Crude Oil Pipelines to cut their ties now. Both of these projects will fuel climate breakdown. Lloyd’s of London and the insurers in its market sit at the centre of a web of climate wreckers in the City of London, alongside Barclays and HSBC.”


The occupations came on the second day of the Fossil Free London “Oily Money Out” protests targeting the Energy Intelligence Forum where fossil fuel corporations talk to government. This Forum occurs in the run up to the COP28 Climate Conference where President Sultan Al Jaber CEO of ADNOC (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company), has been captured by fossil fuel corporations.

There must be no more coal, no more gas and we must stop the flow of oil. Join our campaign to stop insuring the climate crisis.

Protest the Mines & Money conference

Global mining companies are coming to London soon attempting to find investors in their ruinous projects at the Mines and Money Conference (28th to 30th November).

Mining companies will be attending the conference incl:

Join with us to oppose these projects and support communities resisting them here and abroad.


Tuesday 28th

  • 7.30am - 9.30am: Mines and Money Conference (Business Design Centre 52, Upper St, London, N1 0QH). Message: Stop financing extraction.
  • 12 noon-1pm: Talbot Underwriting (60 Threadneedle St, London EC2R 8HP). Message: Don’t insure EMR Capital/ Proposed West Cumbria Mine
  • 3.30pm - 5.30pm: Mines and Money Conference (Business Design Centre). Message: Stop financing extraction.

Wednesday 29th

  • 7.30am - 9.30 am: Mines and Money Conference (Business Design Centre). Message: Stop financing extraction.

Please banners against mining and profiting from land/climate/ biodiversity loss rather than big logos of your group.


We will be outside the conference centre with banners, megaphones, and flyers aimed at investors - feel free to add to that!


Individuals and campaigners from the following groups are expected:

  • Cumbrians against the Whitehaven coal mine
  • London Mining Network
  • Fossil Free London
  • War On Want
  • Coal Action Network
  • FOE local groups


Updated: 23/11/2023

Ffos-y-fran: timeline of illegal coal mining


01 September 2022: Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd applies for a S.73 time extension to mine coal from Ffos-y-fran, and to accordingly delay and vary restoration works.

06 September 2022: Planning permission ends for coal mining at the Ffos-y-fran site, after 15 years and 3 months of operations.

12 September 2022: first reports to MTCBC have been made by local residents of coaling beyond the end of planning permission.

13 September 2022: Local residents submit letters of objection to the Ffos-y-fran extension application.

20 September 2022: CAN submits a letter of objection to the Ffos-y-fran extension application.

27 September 2022: Local residents were supplied with a statement from the Local Planning Authority via their Assembly Member stating; '“If coal mining operations continue on site, this would result in a breach of the planning conditions and may be subject to enforcement action. At this stage because a planning application has been submitted, which seeks to amend to the current permission and enable operations to continue on site, it would not normally be expedient to take enforcement action until that application has been determined…”.

14 October 2022: Local Residents apply to the Planning Directorate (Wales) asking them to 'call-in' the planning application for it to be determined by the Welsh Government

23 October 2022: CAN launches a 38 Degrees petition for Welsh Ministers to call in and reject the application to extend Ffos-y-fran.

12 January 2023: two local residents hand-deliver petition with over 20,000 signatures to the Welsh Government to call in and reject the application to extend Ffos-y-fran.

12 January 2023: CAN emails the head of planning at MTCBC for confirmation whether coal mining is—or has been—occurring at Ffos-y-fran beyond the end of planning permission. The Case Officer responds on 20th January as below.

19 January 2023: CAN contacts MS Dawn Bowden to alert her to the suspected planning infringement within her constituency. The Office of MS Dawn Bowden responds that they will seek an update from the Local Planning Authority regarding the site and current activities.

20 January 2023: MTCBC‘s Principle Planning Officer responds that “It is my understanding that coaling mining has presently ceased on site, pending the outcome of the current planning application”. This understanding was formed based on an update provided by the mining company rather than any kind of inspection or investigation, and did not answer whether coaling has occurred at any point since the end of planning permission.

23 January 2023: MTCBC Planning Councillors and Local Planning Authority staff are invited to a webinar on restoration issues from coal mining in South Wales, featuring Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil. Every Council we invited participated in the webinar apart from MTCBC.

27 January 2023: FOE’s Planning Specialist submitted a screening direction request to MTCBC, challenging the Planning Officer’s assessment that a new Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was not needed for the extension application despite the fact that the last EIA is over 15 years old.

30 January 2023: CAN shares Production and Manpower Statistics from The UK Coal Authority spanning the last 6 months of 2022, indicating coal mining at Ffos-y-fran has continued unabated at the site beyond planning permission.

02 February 2023: MTCBC‘s Principle Planning Officer confirms they were unaware of these statistics and would need to investigate them further - “I can then determine whether the matter should be escalated with our enforcement team and what suitable course of action should be taken, pending the outcome of the current planning application”. The Planning Officer reiterated that based on conversations with the mining company, “activity taking place on site, largely [emphasis added] relate to the slippage that occurred in August 2022”.

06 February 2023: CAN requests an update from the MTCBC‘s Principle Planning Officer’s review of the UK Coal Authority’s statistics indicating ongoing coal mining at Ffos-y-fran. No answer was given.

16 February 2023: MS Dawn Bowden’s office shares with us part of MTCBC Local Planning Authority response to their request for an update “At present we are of the view that the works taking place on site largely relates to the slippage and incorporates some restoration works. Should this situation change it would be necessary for us to consider whether a breach in the planning conditions has taken place and whether it would then be expedient to take enforcement action pending the determination of the current application”. This indicates the Local Planning Authority still has not carried out any investigation, and would only consider enforcement after the determination of the extension application.

03 March 2023: Richard Buxton Solicitors, instructed by CAN, email Welsh Ministers and Enforcement at MTCBC requesting immediate enforcement action is taken at Ffos-y-fran to stop the apparent ongoing breach of planning control.

09 March 2023: A MTCBC solicitor answers that “The Council does not consider that it would be a productive use of its officers’ time to provide a detailed response at present to the matters raised in the letter”. The response also reveals that the extension application is due to be considered on 26 April 2023, only after which any issues related to enforcement will be considered. This effectively affords the coal company a de facto, circa 8 month extension—just one month less than what it applied for, and without any democratic process, procedure, or regulatory oversight.

13 March 2023: Richard Buxton Solicitors write to the Welsh Ministers regarding the serious breach of planning control and the Local Planning Authority’s inadequate action to stop it, despite consequences to national-level climate commitments. A response is requested by 20 March 2023.

21 March 2023: Richard Buxton Solicitors write to the Welsh Ministers following up on the missed response deadline. No reply was offered by Welsh Ministers or any representative of the Welsh Government.

18 April: The Coal Authority fail to provide the first quarter of 2023 national coal mining statistics. Statistics for 2022 were used to prove Ffos-y-fran continued coal mining. The Coal Authority weeks later provide only national-level statistics from which it is not possible to isolate what coal is being mined at Ffos-y-fran. The Coal Authority state it will provide the usual break-down but as of 24 May 2023, has not done so.

26 April 2023: MTCBC Councillors unanimously reject the application to extend the Ffos-y-fran coal mine.

02 May 2023: MTCBC rejects demands that it takes immediate enforcement action via a Temproary Stop Notice in light of the Councillors' rejection of the extension.

04 May 2023: MTCBC case officer admits to witnesses coal trucks continuing to leave the Ffos-y-fran coal mine.

08 May - 12 May 2023: MTCBC receives over 7000 emails demanding it stops nearly 1,000 tonnes of coal leaving the mine every day with a Temporary Stop Notice. MTCBC fails to respond.

10 - 12 May 2023: MS Julie James (Minister for Climate Change) and MS Lee Waters (Deputy Minister for Climate Change) receive over 2,000 emails demand they exercise power 182 of the TCPA to intervene and put a stop to this coal mine, given the MTCBC's continuing failure to for over 8 months.

16 May 2023: After communication with CAN, MS Delyth Jewell questions the Welsh Government on its inaction over Ffos-y-fran. MS Lesley Griffiths responds that there doesn't appear to be evidence of continued coal mining, but instead just of coal leaving the site.

19 May 2023: Drone footage seems to evidence the mining and transport of coal to be filtered inside Ffos-y-fran coal mine.

23 June 2023: Coal Action Network obtains an open letter legal opinion from James Maurici (KC) of Landmark Chambers and Toby Fisher of Matrix Chambers, advising amongst other things, that the Welsh Government or Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council should issue a stop notice to prevent the ongoing illegal coal mining at Ffos-y-fran.

23 August 2023: Together with Good Law Project, we instruct Richard Buxton Solicitors - specialists in planning and environmental law - to initiate judicial review proceedings against the Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council for failing to stop the ongoing illegal coal mining.

23 October 2023: A group of over 30 Wales-based NGOs and businesses sign on to a letter to Climate Change Minister Julie James MS and Deputy Climate Change Minister Lee Waters MS demanding the Welsh Government ban coal mining on Welsh soil to avoid another Ffosy-y-fran opencast disaster.

Published 25/05/23 Updated 30/10/2023

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.