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Are We Heading for an Environmental Crisis if UK Coal go Bust?

Steve Leary | 04.04.2014 04:56 | Ecology | Energy Crisis | Social Struggles | London | Sheffield

If UK Coal go bust, the following six surface mine sites may be mothballed or abandoned, leaving them as un-restored and environmental scares on the local landscape: Butterwell, (Nr Morpeth, Northumberland) Huntington Lane, (Telford) Park Wall North,(Nr Crook, Co Durham) Potland Burn,(Nr Ashington , Norhtumberland) Lodgre House (Nr Ilkeston, Derbyshire) and Minorca (Nr Measham Leicestershire)


LAON PR 3 -2014 4/4/14


In all the media comments about the financial crisis engulfing UK Coal Mine Holdings, little has been said about the six surface mines affected and what might happen to them.

At these six surface mines, a method of quarrying is used to extract coal that lies close to the surface. This involves excavating a large area, piling up spoil into huge mounds using noisy earth moving equipment, removing the coal and, in theory, restoring the sites.

In Scotland last year, two surface mine or opencast operators became bankrupt. Scotland is still trying to work out what to do with at least 32 opencast sites left un-restored as a consequence of these two events. This has left large areas of the Central Belt of Scotland with a scarred landscape. The reason why it is still a problem, is that the estimated net cost to the taxpayer of putting right this environmental disaster, is put at £200m.

If UK Coal Mine Holdings goes the same way, we will be left with six sites scattered across England facing an uncertain future. These are:

Butterwell, near Morpeth in Northumberland,
Huntington Lane, near Telford in Shropshire,
Park Wall North, near Crook in County Durham,
Potland Burn, near Ashington in Northumberland,
Lodge House, near Ilkeston in Derbyshire and
Minorca, near Measham in Leicestershire.

In nearly every case local communities strongly opposed permission being granted for the site, the working of which causes a significant intrusion into peoples’ daily lives.

Now, with the uncertainty created by this latest financial crisis, they face the prospect that these six sites may be mothballed or even, as in Scotland, abandoned, leaving a new environmental crisis, but this time in England, all be it on a smaller scale.

Steve Leary, for The Loose Anti Opencast Network, which assists local groups opposing opencast mine applications said

“Elsewhere, local communities hosting deep mines have a different attitude to the Coal Mining Industry than those communities affected by surface mining. The deep mines have been the economic backbone of local communities and always, because of this, they will be sorely missed when mines shut. The same cannot be said for surface mines, which are imposed on reluctant communities, rarely employ people from local communities, where people suffer from noise, dust and heavy traffic on a daily basis and get no real economic benefit for their pains. In addition, merely the whisper that such a mine is in prospect, let alone living near one, affects house prices.

People grudgingly put up with it, they have no choice. They do, however, have the promise that the operator will restore the site within a specified time. This now looks a fragile promise, if UK Coal Mine Holdings goes into administration. Then we just do not know whether monies put aside to cover this eventually will be sufficient to restore these sites.

If the money is not sufficient, we do not know if they are, like Scottish Communities, going to be left with a mouldering quarry which lack effective supervision and in some cases lie as close as 50 meters from where people try to live a normal life.

People living neat these sites have so far been ignored whilst this crisis develops. Now it is time that they were involved, as each community has had promises made to it. They are stakeholders, and, as such, should be involved in decisions about what happens next."

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The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It is a UK and Northern Ireland wide network of 30 local community groups opposed to local opencast mine proposals / operations. It functions as a medium through which to oppose open cast mine applications and works with groups where local people feel that such a development is inappropriate.


Steve Leary, LAON’S Co-ordinator, at

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