current location: current location:home page > Press center5 > Keeping UK's largest mine open 'a kick in the guts' text

Keeping UK's largest mine open 'a kick in the guts'

2023-06-02 09:17:44 source:CNN (Cable News Network) author:Press center6 click:363order

People living next to the UK's largest opencast coalmine have said they are "devastated" by plans to keep it working.

Coal extraction at Ffos-y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil had been set to stop in September after 15 years.

But the owners hope to persuade the local council to let it keep going.

Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd said it wanted to continue supplying the steel industry with Welsh coal.

The firm claimed there were insufficient funds set aside to restore the 1,000 acre (407 hectare) site as planned and time to develop and consult on a revised proposal was needed.

It has initially applied for a nine-month extension.

But the company hopes to prepare another planning application for a further three years of coal extraction.

Environmental campaigners believe the plans are contrary to Wales' climate change commitments and want the Welsh government to intervene.

It's not the first time the Ffos-y-Fran scheme has caused upset. Its proximity to the local community has led to numerous court battles, petitions and protests.

The United Nations even took an interest at one point.

In 2007 work began to mine 11 million tonnes of coal. In the early years, Chris and Alyson Austin's home was a just a few hundred yards from the operation.

Mr Austin said: "It's been worse than we could have possibly imagined. For many years we suffered the noise and the dust and the light pollution."

Learning of the new application was like "a kick in the guts".

Mrs Austin said the date consent to mine was supposed to run out - 6 September, 2022 - had been etched in her mind.

She had champagne ready in the fridge, but now is "absolutely devastated".

She said: "We've been waiting all these years and now they're trying to extend it. It's awful."

Royston Thomas, who lives on the mountain road leading to the mine, said it had been "a total blight" on his life for the past 20 years.

He said: "The residents should be protected, but they're not protected. Anyone will tell you that. They're overridden."

They and others have written to Merthyr Tydfil council objecting to the application. They are being backed by Friends of the Earth Cymru, whose director Haf Elgar said: "The permission given to the company was for a time limit, not for a tonnage of coal, and that should be respected.

"This can't go on and on for the community, nor for the planet."

She believed if the council wanted to approve the plans, it would have to refer them to the Welsh government.

Ms Elgar said: "We would call on them on the basis of their planning policy, their energy policy and their coal policy to reject this and send a clear message to coal operators in Wales that they are no longer welcome."

Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd said its work was affected by the pandemic, so more time was needed "to allow for full extraction of the consented area".

It added there were "insufficient funds" set aside to restore the mountainside as planned in 2007, so wanted time to put a revised site restoration plan in place.

A spokesman said this would be a "major project" and result in an "end of coaling strategy" for the area.

Alongside efforts to boost local biodiversity, it would involve turning parts of the site into a "tourism and leisure destination", with details and a public consultation to be unveiled in the coming months.

It said there was still demand for its coal from Tata's Port Talbot steelworks, as well as heritage railways throughout Europe.

The firm's planning statement said while "there is a longer term aspiration for carbon neutrality within the UK, industries such as steel manufacturing are in a period of transition and require a security of supply in the short term."

"As such, the ability to continue extracting dry steam coal from Ffos-y-Fran should be considered of national significance," it said.

Tata said the mine supplied it with "an essential raw material" that enabled production of steel which is "helping the country to achieve its net-zero ambitions".

"Our steel is used to build renewable energy projects, electric vehicles and sustainable buildings, to name just a few," a spokesman said.

"There are a number of benefits from using locally-produced coal, including in reducing transport emissions of CO2.

"In fact, transport emissions for each tonne of UK coal delivered to Port Talbot are typically five times lower than coal imported from abroad."

The Welsh government said extending coal mining in Wales would exacerbate climate change.

A spokeswoman said it was aware of the planning application and had been clear it did not support the extraction of fossil fuels and was "focused on the climate emergency".

"Under our notification direction, any local authority that does not intend to refuse an application for coal or petroleum development must notify Welsh ministers who will scrutinise the decision and decide next steps based on the merits of the individual application," she said.

Merthyr Tydfil council said: "All presentations received by the public will be duly acknowledged and taken in to consideration in the determination of the planning application."

author:Press center7
headline news
News Rankings