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Time to call time on coal
Ffos-y-fran is the biggest open-cast mine in the UK. Situated on the outskirts of Merthyr Tydfil, it is just 36 metres from some homes and near a nursery school. Legislation requiring a buffer zone of at least 500 metres for such schemes is pending but not set to be made retrospective.
Dust, smoke and noise from Ffos-y-fra will exacerbate health problems in a town that already has the lowest life expectancy in Wales. Mining is set to continue, 7am to 11pm, for 17 years.
Miller-Argent, the mining consortium, calls Ffos-y-fra a “land reclamation scheme”. Digging a 1,000 acre hole is a strange way to clean up! A genuine reclamation scheme would not take 17 years.
MillerArgent claim Ffos-y-frawill provide “direct employment for over 200 people” and “generate tens of millions of pounds for the local economy and to the benefit of the local community.” The reality is that many workers are specialists who move from mine to mine and the huge profits made by MillerArgent will leave town along with the coal. The mine will blight the area, driving away tourists and small businesses, and actually many jobs could be lost. MillerArgent are offering the town a community centre while at the same time breaking the heart and back of this community.
A dirty business
The people of Merthyr never wanted Ffos-y-fra: 10,000 of them signed petitions opposing it. Yet, it was imposed. The Council, dominated by Labour, the Labour Assembly Member and the previous Welsh Assembly Government all backed Miller-Argent in staving off objections.
Ffos-y-fra is a kick in the teeth to democracy; does Welsh politics get any dirtier? Thankfully, these days some of our representatives are speaking up. In consultations on “The Coal Technical Advice Note” in March, Bethan Jenkins, Leanne Wood, Mike German and Mick Bates were among those voicing real concerns.
Digging ourselves into a hole
We are set to re-enter the Coal Age. According to one government document, there are “£20 billion of new coal-fired power stations planned to be built in the UK before 2020”. Coal produces more carbon dioxide than any other fuel. Coal from Ffos-y-fra will produce 30 million tonnes. This is a disaster for the global climate.
The only way we prevent climate change is to stop burning fossil fuels. The government says it is committed to reducing carbon emissions but it is pouring money - our money - into the coal industry. There has never been a hole like Ffos-y-fra, and the government's climate change policies are about to fall right into it.
A cleaner future
Our children deserve a cleaner future. A paltry 6% of the UK's electricity needs are forecast to come from renewables by 2010. Yet the clean energy potential in Wales is tremendous. According to the Welsh Assembly Government's own “route map”, offshore wind-farms, tidal and wave power schemes could make Wales a net exporter of electricity. Ffos-y-fra is (not) the pits; it is long gone time for us to cast off the Coal Age.
For more information: http://www.stopffosyfran.co.uk.