Open Letter: South African communities ask UK planners to reject new open-cast coal mine

On the eve of what could be a landmark plannning inquiry for the future of UK Coal, communities fighting the expansion of coal mining in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, have reached out in support of UK allies campaigning to stop a new open cast coal mine in Druridge Bay, Northumberland.

In an open letter published today, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO) calls on Northumberland County Council and UK planning authorities to reject UK-based Banks Mining’s proposed Highthorn Mine on the basis of its potential climate impacts.

The new planning hearing is set to start on 31st May and and will run until 16nd June. MCEJO’s letter will be read out as evidence during the hearing, reminding planners that climate change knows no borders and stating solidarity with the people of Druridge Bay in their struggle.

With other open cast applications in the pipeline, the decision regarding the Highthorn Mine’s future is highly significant. If the mine is rejected on climate change grounds, it would likely mean the end of new coal mining in the world’s oldest industrial nation.

See the full letter below.

Read more about the Druridge Bay inquiry.

Find out more about the struggle to protect land, life, water and wilderness in Mfolozi, South Africa.

 

Open letter to Northumberland County Council and The Planning Inspectorate.

 

To the Decision Makers,

 

We, the Mfolozi Community Environmental Justice Organisation (MCEJO), Fuleni, KwaZulu-Natal, who are also members of Mining Affected Communities United in Action (MACUA) in South Africa, are writing to strongly support other groups calling for the rejection of Banks Mining’s application to construct an open cast coal mine at Highthorn, Northumberland.

 

We know what it is like to live under the shadow of a coal mining application, because we have firsthand experience of this. We stand in solidarity with members of the local UK community in their opposition to this proposed mine.

 

Our community/organization also has firsthand experience of the blasting, dust, water theft and other impacts of an open cast coal mining operation 10kms (6.2 miles away). We also are severely challenged by climate change as a result of South Africa’s reliance on fossil fuels, the worst being a severe seven year drought that resulted in many deaths of our livestock and even wildlife in the neighbouring Hluhluwe iMfolozi Park. Predictions for future weather patterns for our area are extreme droughts followed by excessive rain and flooding.

 

In the original planning hearing Banks Mining said it would be better to mine coal in the UK than elsewhere in the world where standards and safeguards are lower. We are astonished at this illogical argument that a coal mine in England in the UK is going to be beneficial to mining in Africa and other developing countries! A new coal mine in the UK would provide legitimacy for mining companies to continue to exploit and devastate Africa and other countries by saying that if a new coal mine is viable in the UK, then coal mining must still be a viable industry. As a community affected by open cast coal mining, we would strongly recommend that if the UK is sincere about trying to have a positive impact in other countries, then the best thing to do is not to commission another coal mine.

 

We absolutely cannot support the Banks Mining’s application and stand in total solidarity with the people of Druridge Bay, Save Druridge Bay, Friends of the Earth, Coal Action Network and Yes to Life and No to Mining in the core call to stop this proposal.

 

82% of all known coal reserves need to stay in the ground to stay within a 2°C global temperature rise. And almost 100% must remain buried to avoid exceeding the aspirational 1.5°C goal set by the world’s governments in the Paris Climate Accord.

 

Every coal mine contributes unacceptably to warming the Earth. This affects us all, wherever we live. We therefore object to new coal mines anywhere in the world. We ask Banks Mining to stop using Africa and other developing countries as an excuse to justify more coal mining in the UK. We would not wish on anyone else what we have had to put up with ourselves.

 

We are not alone in taking this position. Our community/organisations are part of a diverse and growing movement worldwide that is working to ensure that all people can enjoy a climate-safe future. We are all invested in this future. But for it to become a reality, nations like the UK, which bear the greatest historical responsibility for climate change, must meet their climate targets and lead the way by stopping the extraction of dirty fuels.

 

It is in the best interest of all of us living on this planet that we act now to prevent runaway climate change. English law enables applications to be refused on the basis that it is not in the local, national nor international interest to approve development, as is the situation in these cases. We also understand that Banks Mining’s proposed Highthorn Mine is the first coal extraction project to be called in on climate change grounds. The approval of a coal-fired power station in South Africa was recently rejected by our courts because the application had not considered the impacts of climate change. If Africa is taking cognizance of the reality of climate change, we call on the UK to do the same.

 

We urge you take this historic opportunity to make a globally significant statement about the UK’s climate leadership by rejecting this mine.

 

The whole world is watching this decision. Please do not fail us.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

Billy Mzokhona Mnqondo

 

Co-Founder: MCEJO

KZN representative for MACUA

 

 

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