UK: Community opponents of planned Field House coal mine buoyed by international solidarity

YLNM member group Coal Action Network (CAN) are supporting UK communities to reject new opencast coal mines. The following article describes how, at a recent hearing for one mine, CAN read out a solidarity letter coordinated in collaboration with YLNM, bringing the voices of coal-affected communities in the Global South to the heart of this struggle.

On 1st October 2015, the first speakers from the local community opposing the application by Hargreaves to mine half a million tonnes of coal from Pittington Co. Durham at the planned Field House coal mine.

The public inquiry opened on Tuesday with speakers from the council defending their decision to reject the application in June 2014. Yesterday speakers from the community and a speaker from the Coal Action Network spoke against the application.

“There is no economic reason, no community reason and no environmental reason to allow this application.”- Speaker from Stop the opencast in Pittington and West Rainton.

Excellent speakers from the local community brought up the issues including:
  • concern of dust creating health problems
  • expectations of extensions, given that the minerals plan shows there is more coal in the area than they have currently requested to extract
  • the close proximity of residents, the nearest of whom at 101m from the void, (according to Hargreaves)
  • that the company is not in good financial situation and so is more likely to abandon the site, or never start it
  • additional HGVs would be dangerous on an already congested and dangerous road, the A690
  • the planning applications wind data comes relates to Newcastle airport, which is 20 miles away
  • loss of high grade agricultural land
  • affects on tourism the fourth biggest industry in the area
  • Hargreaves acknowledge that there may not be a market for the fire clay so it may be reburied
  • power stations have announced closures for next year and steel works are in financial difficulties reducing the demand for coal
  • damage to the biodiversity

Anne Harris, Coal Action Network spoke about the impacts Hargreaves are currently having on communities in Scotland, where they took over many of the ATH resources and Scottish Coal sites when these operators liquidated. Highlighting that the company is likely to behave in the same way here, if they were given planning permission.

Residents local to Hargreaves operated Muir Dean in Fife, complain that the site started operating 24 hours, outside of the original planning permission. That this has been amended to 6am to 11pm but that the company do not always comply. That the dust suppression on the site is insufficient affecting a local business. The HGVs on the road are more frequent than was anticipated and noise levels are high. Criticisms of Hargreaves from other Scottish communities were also mentioned.

A letter from 53 organisations in 23 countries addressed to the planning inspector, asks for the application to be refused as, “English law enables applications to be refused on the basis that it is not in the local, national nor international interest to approved development, as is the situation in these cases.” The signatories included those affected by opencast coal mining in the global south and countries supplying the UK with coal. The full letter and signatories are available at coalaction.org.uk/openletter

Additionally, the national situation in relation to the governments intention to phase out coal without Carbon Capture and Storage, European Directives which are likely to close more power stations and the international coal price affecting all British mining companies were all mentioned.

The public inquiry is expected to last three weeks in total.

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