Carry on camping! Citizens close open-cast mine

IssueFebruary 2008
News by Mid-Wales Climate Action

"Sitting on my sleeping mat, nestling a cup of tea, dry and cosy in waterproofs and thermals, I erupted into giggles as my friend passed me a biscuit. What was so funny? It sounds like your average camping trip. Except that we were perched on top of a Komatsu 3000, one of the seven-metre-high, 250-tonne diggers being used to open-cast mine 10.8 million tonnes of coal at Ffos-y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil."

This snippet of Cath's account comes from the 5 December 2007 occupation of Ffos-y-Fran. Concerned about climate change and the injustice inflicted on the people of Merthyr, citizens from all over Wales stopped work at the mine.

Groups came as polar bears, climate officers and clowns. Leon Stanfield of Residents Against Ffos-y-Fran (RAFF) noted, "The day of peaceful protest certainly stirred things up locally. As soon as groups went `over the wire', an invasion of police and media made sure of that."

"When we got to the steps of the ladder up the second big dig- ger," Paulo relates, "we were met by two security guards. `Touch me, I'll put you in St Charles', said one. Our blank stares elicited the explanation `That's the hospital'. When the guard realised we weren't there for a fight, and noticed that the rest of our group had walked around the back and were climbing up the bucket onto the digger, he and his colleague headed for their Land Rover. As they drove off, he yelled `You people - what will you tell your kids in ten years time?' My friend and I looked at each other, thinking 'Hey - that's supposed to be our line!' One man's energy security is the global majority's environmental catastrophe."

Clowns, meanwhile, fished for coal in a puddle, their line baited with a toy spade - well, it is an open-cast mine! Police ordered them back to one of the monster diggers where polar bears abseiled, erecting banners. "It's a health and safety issue," police explained.

Stupid clowns - they should have known it was safer to swing from a rope high above the ground in torrential rain! John notes, though, that: "No one wondered why we were stopping the dig. At worst, we received grumbling cooperation. We are the police - that's what I learned from Ffos-y-Fran. We arrested the diggers in the name of a moral authority that everyone recognised."

Moral authority is one thing, political action another. Mining at Ffos-y-Fran was initiated while the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) sat on European legislation that would have stopped the scheme in its Caterpillar tracks.

Though both Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats favour this legislation, it's unlikely to help either the people of Merthyr or climate change.

On behalf of Plaid Cymru, Minister for Rural Affairs Elin Jones states, "We are continuing to press for a change of policy to ensure a 500m buffer zone around opencast sites, but this will not be retrospective."

Call us clowns, but surely we should all be asking why on Earth not?

Topics: Climate change
See more of: Wales