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Protestors Shut Opencast Coal Mine

eric | 01.04.2008 06:43 | Climate Chaos

Tuesday, 1st April, 2008: At 7am this morning, protesters halted work at one of the biggest opencast coal mines in Europe, on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil. They intend to remain on the site for several days.

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Direct action exposes 'black hole' in climate change policy

Tuesday, 1st April, 2008: At 7am this morning, protesters halted work at one of the biggest opencast coal mines in Europe, on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil. They intend to remain on the site for several days.

Several groups of protesters have chained themselves to large excavation machinery, while another group has blockaded one of the main entrances to the site.

The protest at the Ffos-y-Fran site highlights the hypocrisy of a government that claims to be taking climate change seriously, while approving new coal mines and coal-fired power stations. Coal has the biggest impact on climate change of any fuel – despite opposition from the world's leading scientists, the Government is supporting an outdated and dangerous technology that has no future.

Merthyr residents have opposed the scheme for many years. The mine comes within 36 metres of local homes – in England and Scotland, the scheme would have been rejected due to legislation requiring a 500 metre buffer zone between opencast mines and residential areas.

The action coincides with Fossil Fools Day, an international day of climate change protest.

PHOTO OPPORTUNITY: The coal washery and protesters are clearly visible from the Bogey Road, off the A??, east of Merthyr Tydfil. (GRID REF) Other protesters on the edge of the mine are available for interviews and further information.

INTERVIEWS available in both English and Welsh.

More details and live updates from the site are available on



Ffos-y-Fran (pronounced forss-uh-vran) will be one of the largest coal mines in the history of Wales. Objections by local residents to the project have meant a delay of almost two decades from project proposal to the granting of planning permission. Local residents live as close as 36 metres from the mine. No compensation or re-location has been offered to those affected by the scheme.

The mine is operated by Miller Argent Ltd - a joint venture between house builder Miller Group, property developer Argent and landowner Bernard Llewellyn. Over the life of the project, Miller Argent estimates it will mine 10.8 million tonnes of coal at between 750,000 tonnes and 1 million tonnes per year, which when burnt will release over 30 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere. Much of this will be burnt in Aberthaw Power Station, near Swansea.
Coal is the most carbon-intensive of all fossil fuels – burning it has the biggest impact on climate change of any fuel. Ffos-y-Fran and mines like it in the UK will help supply a new generation of coal fired power plants. Kingsnorth in Kent is the first of these proposed new plants, and is planned to start production by 2012. It will be followed by at least seven others. Despite much interest in ‘carbon capture and storage’ (CCS) technology, it is at least 20 years from being commercially viable on the scale suggested by the Government.

The use of coal in power stations has risen by 10 per cent over the past 10 years, and consequently CO2 emissions in the UK are higher than ever before. Experience shows us that if we dig up coal, we burn it. By supporting new coal mines like Ffos-y-Fran the Government is sending a clear signal that they are not committed to substantially addressing climate change.
UK Government and Welsh Assembly Government Policy
The UK Government’s flagship Climate Change Bill commits the government to reduce UK emissions by 60% by 2050. The newly appointed Climate Change Committee that the bill establishes, chaired by Lord Turner, will report in November on whether this target should be 80%, and are likely to approve the more ambitious target.

The UK Government has committed to keeping global temperature rises below 2 degrees centigrade. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – the most authoritative scientific body ever assembled - stated in its Fourth Assessment Report in 2007 that for warming to be between 2 - 2.4C will require a 85% cut in global emissions by 2050.

Relying on coal-fired power stations to generate electricity for the UK means we are almost certain to miss these targets – there is a clear gap between governmental rhetoric and action.

The Welsh Assembly Government will not agree to a buffer zone of any sort around the mine, despite legislation in England and Scotland which imposes 500 metre buffer zones on opencast mines which would have prevented Ffos-y-Fran from being approves, if implementation of the legislation had not been delayed in Wales. No compensation or re-location has been offered to local residents.

The Welsh Assembly Government describe climate change as “the greatest threat facing humanity.” They also state: “The local environment matters... communities are blighted by littering, fly-tipping and pollution.” Their approval of Ffos-y-Fran shows that, again, there is a gap between rhetoric and behaviour.
Who are we?
This protest has brought people together from across Wales and the UK, in solidarity with local residents opposed to Ffos-y-Fran. We come from many different backgrounds, including business, academia and environmental organisations.

For many of us, this is the first time we have taken part in direct action of this kind. We don't do so lightly, but in this case, given the level of opposition to the mine which has already been ignored, we see peaceful protest as one of the few options left to highlight the urgent and growing threat of unstoppable climate change.
Residents Against Ffos-y-Fran
As a group, and under various names, Residents Against Ffos-y-Fran (RAFF) have been fighting against opencast mining at Ffos-y-Fran for 4-5 years now, with several members of the group opposing opencast mining in Merthyr Tydfil for decades before.

A 10,000 signature petition against the scheme was collected by the group in a relatively short period of time. With the recent start of mining at Ffos-y-Fran, the group re-formed with a new structure and identity to better meet the challenge presented.

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