Victory as Councillors take a stance against Welsh opencast coal mining

Communities in the south Wales Valleys have suffered years of blight from
opencast. Grant money has encouraged new businesses but the company
running the largest coal mine in the UK, Miller Argent, want to open a new
6 million tonne mine. IF given the go ahead the Nant Llesg site would have
dominated the Rhymney valley. However at the planning hearing on the 24th
June 2015 the planning councillors gave the best possible result. A great
outcome for all those who have campaigned over the months and years
against another enormous opencast adjacent to the controversial
Ffos-y-Fran site.

Ffos-y-Fran site

(Ffos-y-Fran site. Credit: altitudeuk)

The councillors voted unanimously against the proposal and the final
decision has now been deferred to a hearing on the 4th August for refusal.
It is possible that the mine could be approved in the August meeting, but
22 local campaigners from The Green Valley’s Alliance and United Valley’s
Action Group spoke with amazing clarity, passion and knowledge. Miller
Argent closed their Ffos-y-fran opencast and bussed their workers to the
hearing, dressed in new hi-viz jackets. There the workers proceeded to
jeer like naughty boys and brag about the over time they were being paid
for attending.
Local people were concerned that the promised 240 jobs would not out weigh
the job losses in the area, particularly green jobs. Research from Cardiff
University said that the development would have an overall negitive affect
on jobs particularly important in an area which is slowly recovering from
it’s mining history. There was concern that this would particularly affect
women, who currently work in the factories on the industrial estate but
would not be offered replacement work in the mine. Cosmetics company
Richards and Appleby said that they would be forced to move, if the
application had been successful, as their clients want to know their high
end products are manufactured in a clean environment.

(Rolling hills in the Welsh valleys)

(Rolling hills un-blighted by mining  in the Welsh valleys)

The proposal was by Miller Argent who already run a monstrous mine in the
area. Local people came and gave their real life experiences of living
beside Ffos-y-fran. Alyson from the United Valley’s Action Group described
how the conditions living next to Ffos-y-Fran are worse than she had
expected, saying they never open windows no matter how hot it is because
of the dust and cannot dry washing outside. She described modern mining
methods as “noisy, dirty, barbaric and mines should not operate within 5
miles of people.”
The RSPB speaker described that the proposal would contravene protection
of lapwings and the uses of the Rhaslas pond on the site for
ornithologists saying the developer admits that the damage would be
significant, permanent and irreversible. The speaker for Friends of the
Earth said that the application relied on information which was used for
Ffos-y-Fran from 2004 and that if approved the working would release 16
million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

(Lapwings would be threatened by new mining. Credit:

(Lapwings would be threatened by new mining. Credit:

Hilary Williams spoke about the commoners original objection to the plan
and the subsequent U-turn which the 70 commoners were not properly
consulted about or notified of. This is believed to be because significant
individuals within the commoners committee were paid off by the company.
Another neighbour from Ffos-y-Fran described being paid cash in envelopes
for cleaning cars and windows by the coal company off the record. Another
mentioned the damage done to his property by the vibrations and blasting
for which he has not received compensation. It was raised that the coal
would likely have gone to Aberthaw which is already breaching EU air
quality standards for NOX which has resulted in an EU court case. It was
noted that in 2010 the site had been de-marked as a special landscape area
but Miller Argent lobbied to get it changed to a coal area.

“”The health of the citizens of this area is more important than millions of pounds for Miller Argent.”-” Councillor Carl Cuss.

The people speaking in favour of the application made presentations full
of inaccuracies. For example a founding director of Miller Argent claimed
that there are 8,000 jobs in mining. There were 3455 in the first quarter
of 2015 in the whole of the UK [1]. The spokesperson from RWE also claimed
there were 2,000 jobs in mines in Wales, there are 810. [1] He also
claimed that Aberthaw is the second most efficient power station in the
UK. Miller Argent claimed there would be jobs for women on the new site,
but the miners they paid to come to the hearing were all men, and they
clearly would have made any female staff attend as a showcase, had there
been any.
The councillors all spoke against the scheme. Some commented that they had
lived through mining in the area and feel that future generations deserve
better. “Advantages for jobs do not out weigh the problems for people or
the environment.” The tour the day before the hearing was said to be
useful to the councillors who appreciated the open aspect of the land and
the comparison between the natural contours of un-mined land with that of
earlier opencasts. The site can be seen from a long way away. One noted
that envelopes of cash for cleaning cars and windows was not acceptable.
The planning officer and Head of Regeneration and Planning both seemed to
want to the councillors to approve. But the vote was unanimous.
Well done to all the people who have campaigned against the threat of a
colossal mine for the next 25 years. Thank you to the planning committee
for making the right decision. We excitedly await full rejection.


[1] Coal Authority, Production and Man power returns for the three month
period January 2015 to March 2015

The Coal Action Network


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