Skip to content or view screen version

New Health Risks and Opencast Mining

Steve Leary | 02.07.2012 12:48 | Climate Chaos | Energy Crisis | Social Struggles | Birmingham | Sheffield

The June Review of developments affecting Opencast Mining from the Loose Anti Opencast Network provides new evidence that Surface Mine workers in the USA contract 'Black Lung' disease. Secondly it reviews recent developments in Carbon Capture and Storage in the UK and lastly updates what the situation is on prospective and actual opencast sites in England.



PR 2012-2 2/7/12

Issues relating to proposed opencast sites were locally newsworthy items in the last month. In addition to the news items relating to various proposed and potential sites listed below, there was news in other areas that could have a potential effect on the future of opencast mining in the UK. Firstly there were two developments relating to Health Issues and Opencast Mining. The World Health Organisation declared that Diesel Emissions were Carcinogenic, themselves causing forms of lung cancer. This is not good news for those living near, or have the prospect of living near, opencast sites where usually all the heavy machinery used to mine and transport the coal is diesel driven.

The health news gets even worse, for a second reason, with a new health study of surface coal miners in the USA finding, for the first time, that ‘Black Lung’ disease or Pneumoconiosis is associated with surface mining as varying degrees of incidence of this disease were observed in miners working at different sites. Dust from silica was mainly to blame and silica dust has long been a controversial issue when it comes to opencast mining in this country.

LAON both suggest that all those currently opposing opencast applications ask the Environmental Health Officer who is advising the Planning Authority considering the Application to review this new evidence to see if any planning application for a new opencast mine can now be considered ‘safe’ for the local population. LAON will also be passing this information on to a group of MP’s who we know are opposed to opencast mining to see if a review of health guidance on opencast mine applications and guidance on current mitigation procedures can be initiated in light of this new evidence. References for both of these news items of are given below.
The other major news stories which have a bearing on the future of opencast mining in the UK are to do with Carbon Capture and Storage. (CCS). If it was proved that it was commercially viable to operate such a system and apply it to coal fired power stations, then new coal fired power stations would be built and the demand for coal would increase, perhaps dramatically. We may then face a flood of applications for new opencast coal sites, given the prohibitive costs, estimated in a Daily Mail news article in 2009, of £1bn to open a new deep mine.

This is why recent news on this front is interesting. One the one hand, Ayrshire Power has withdrawn its proposal to build a new coal fired power station at Hunterston in Scotland, which was to be fitted with unproven CCS technology to remove some of the CO2. Meanwhile, in England, progress is being made with the ‘Don Valley Power Project’, an ambitious, expensive (£5bn) plan to build a CCS power plant near Hatfield Colliery in Yorkshire and then pipe the CO2 gas 200 miles to depleted oil fields in the North Sea to both store the gas and recover more oil. Big companies, including BOC and Samsung have now taken a share in the scheme, which is now starting public consultations on the route of the proposed pipeline. It’s called the ‘Don Valley Power Project’, since eventually the hope is that power stations at other sites, such as Drax, Ferrybridge and Tata Steel will be connected to the pipeline. However, this scheme has already bankrupted one company, Powerfuel and it is dependent on gaining public funding. However, if at all successful, it raises the risk of increasing the demand for coal and for more opencast coal site applications for that 500m tonnes of coal that is estimated to be less than 500m away from where thousands of people live. LAON will be watching developments. References for both these news items are below.

The way to read each entry is as follows:
Site Name, Location, Planning Authority, Position in the Planning System (either Scoping Inquiry, Application Submitted, Application Approved) and the name of the Applicant / Operator.

BIRKLANDS, (nr .Marley Hill, Gateshead), (Gateshead) (Application) (Hall Construction Services)

‘Opencast, the threat returns’ (local action group) (no date)
Not a news story, but an on line petition that can be signed to show opposition to open casting at this proposed 275,000 tonne site. See

BRADLEY (nr. Consett) (Co Durham) (Judicial Review) (UK Coal)
No news on if and when the Judicial Review will begin. The Planning Inspectorate has yet to decide on whether it is to contest the Judicial Review

DEARNE LEA, WEST CLAYTON (S.E. of Huddersfield) (Kirklees Council) (Application) (George Harrison Ltd)

‘Skelmanthorpe Action Group urges Kirklees Council to refuse Clayton West mining plan’, (Huddersfield Examiner, 8/6/12)

A local campaign group joins those objecting to this Application as it would not bring any benefit to the local area and result in massive disruption. See

‘Plans for opencast mine given short shrift by council’ (Yorkshire Post, 14/6/12)
Wakefield Council confirms its opposition to the proposed opencast mine at the Dearne Lea site. Kirklees Council’s decision now expected towards the end of the year.See

To contact the Skelmansthorpe Action Group see:

For more details on the Application and the possibility to make a comment up to:

FERNEYBEDS, WIDDRINGTON STATION (8 miles NW of Ashington) (Northumberland County Council) (Scoping Inquiry) (Banks Group)

‘Widdrington villagers split over new opencast application’ (The Journal 20/6/12)
Ironically, given the title of the article, it only relays the opinion of one local person who supports the Application. See

‘Chairman gives blessing to opencast site proposals’ (News Post Leader, 27/6/12)
Another story, almost a repeat, of the local person, Brenda Fordy-Scott, Chairman Widdrington Residents Association giving support to Bank’s Application.

GEORGE FARM (nr. Smalley, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) (Application) (LEM Resources)

The Smalley Action Group has now set up a petition where you can register your objection to the Application. See

HALTON LEA GATE (c 5 miles SW of Haltwhistle) (Northumberland County Council) (Public Inquiry) (HM Developments)

HM Developments plan to mine 140,000 tonnes of coal
Awaiting the result of a Public Inquiry on this application, held in May 2012

HILLTOP PROJECT (nr. Clay Cross, Derbyshire) (Derbyshire County Council) ( Scoping Inquiry) (Provectus Remediation)

Provectus Remediation have indicated that they are intending to submit a plan to mine 130,000 tonnes of coal from a 30 hectare site over a 30 month period.
The local MP, Natasha Engel has now announced her opposition to any proposed opencast mining application for the Hilltop Project site. Hilltop Action Group: Support from Local MP and Councillors, June 2012 . See

To keep in touch with the protest campaign, go to

HOODSCLOSE Whittonstall (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (UK Coal)

UK Coal hopes to extract 2.2m tonnes of coal and 500,000 tonnes of fireclay over a seven year period. The Scoping Inquiry state began soon after August 2009 with an application following in 2010. This is still a live application.

‘Protesters step up Whittonstall opencast mine fight’, (The Journal, 28/6/12)

A decision on this Application takes a step closer now that UK Coal plc has submitted the additional information NCC asked for. The Whittonstall Action Group is to hold a public meeting in the village church on 7/7/12 to explain why they still oppose the Application. See

You can find further information and make a make a comment here:;jsessionid=2BC579DC2A201F65967E36E99DD92B3A?action=firstPage

You can also contact the Whittonstall Action Group here:

THE JAMES BRIDGE COPPER FOUNDRY / PHOENIX 10 (Walsall) (Walsall Metropolitan Council / Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership) (Expression of Interest) (Parkhill Estates).

No new information is available about this possible site.

SHORTWOOD FARM (Trowell, nr Nottigham, Nottinghamshire) (Application) (UK Coal)

UK Coal have applied to mine 1,275,000 tonnes of coal over a 5yr period on a Greenfield site.

‘Rallying call on mine plan’, (Nottingham Post, 20/6/12)

Article reminds local people that they only have a few days in which to lodge an objection to UK Coal’s Shortwood Farm proposal. So far 114 objections have been lodged with Nottinghamshire County Council, with 6 letters in favour of the Application.

To send a letter opposing this application, go to:

To find out more about the Application see:

MARLEY HILL COLLIERY RECLAIMATION (Sunnyside, Gateshead (Co Durham also affected), (Scoping Enquiry) (UK Coal)

No recent news about this proposed development to mine approximately 1m tonnes of coal

WELL HILL FARM, STANNINGTON (nr Morpeth) (Northumberland County Council) (Application) (Hargreaves Services)

No new information is available about this possible site.

‘Hargreaves looks to open surface mines in the North East’ (Hargreaves Web Site, 15/2/12)

Hargreaves has submitted plans for its first English Opencast site. It plans to extract 130,000 tonnes of coal. See

For more information on this application and the possibility of making a comment go to


‘Diesel exhausts cause cancer’, (Coal Action Scotland / Indymedia Scotland, 13/6/12

Coal Action Scotland, who have long campaigned for more research into the health issues related to opencast mining have published this press release that links the recent WHO classification of Diesel Engine Exhaust as Carcinogenic with health issues related to opencast mining. See

For a link to the publication of the WHO monographs and other information on this see

Research from the (USA Government) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention : Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR): June 15, 2012 / 61(23);431-434

“Pneumoconiosis and Advanced Occupational Lung Disease Among Surface Coal Miners” — 16 States, 2010–2011”See



‘Plans for carbon-capture power station abandoned’ (BusinessGreen / Guardian, 27/6/12) @


‘Gas firms stake in power station’, (Sheffield Star, 14/6/12) @

‘Crucial milestone’ in bid to build vast CO2 Pipe’, (Yorkshire Post, 19/6/12) @

The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It functions as a medium through to oppose open cast mine applications, through which any person / group can communicate ideas, information, requests for information and possibly concerted actions if we find a target. In addition feel free to invite any other person / group who oppose opencast mining applications, to join the network so that it grows. At present LAON links individuals and groups in N Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Northumberland, Co Durham, Leeds, Kirklees Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Walsall.

You can read our 1st press release on the Coal Action Network Site here:

If you have news about developments at any of the above sites, or you have news of any new sites not included in this list then please contact Steve Leary at, which is also LAON’s contact address.

Steve Leary
- e-mail: