Q. Did the council have no option but to allow this mine because there was no other way of paying for the tip clearance and landscaping work?
A. No, not at all. Finance was available from European Funding to pay for the bulk of this work. Up to 80% of the cost of this work has always been available from that one source alone. Miller-Argent would have been able to claim this for clearing them up, but they would have had to performing land reclamation only, not coal mining. So Miller-Argents it's not a coal mine, it's land reclamation by coal extraction didn't cut any ice with the people who allocate the grants either. Other grants may also have been available to reclaim the area, but of course no-one was intereseted in the reclamation, they just wanted to get at the coal.
Q. Merthyr desperately needs the jobs that this mine will create?
A. This in an important and very pertinent question which will have to be answered in 3 parts:
1. We are very suspicious about the number of direct jobs that will be created by the mine. Most of the work will be carried out by either external contractors, or by skilled mining operatives brought in for the job and working under the Miller-Argent banner.
2. In our opinion, what jobs that will be made available will, on-the-whole be unskilled, low quality jobs, and even then, how many will go to indiginous Merthyr residents, instead of itinerant 'agency' workers we cannot say. We would be very interested to see employment details from Miller-Argent!
3. We believe that Merthyr needs high quality employers that will offer work at diverse skill levels. Such employers have been looking to move into the area, but have now chosen to set-up elsewhere once the threat of opencast mining in the area was realised.
Q. Some people are saying that you are changing the issues you are fighting on. Health one minute, noise the next, then climate. Sounds fickle to me?
A. With something as large, dirty, and environmentally damaging as opencast mining there has to be more than just the one issue!
The immediate impact is on the local community with the noise, dirt and dust. Also, trying to ensure that any toxic waste from top clearance and mining stays on site and doesn't find its way into the air or any water courses
We then have the long term health issues caused by the dust and fumes. also we have the intrinsic climate issues caused by the fact that they are mining coal, a non-sustainable fossil fuel.
So, not fickle, just spoiled for choice.
Q. This tip has to be landscaped. Why don't you just let them get on with it?
A. We aren't fighting against landscaping, we're fighting against the opencast mining of the site. These things don't have to be linked! You can do one without the other!
Let's be honest, the term Land Reclamation by Coal Extraction is the most ridiculous cover up title for Opencast Mining that has ever been conjoured up!
As far as we can discern, the landfill tip removal, making it safe, and landscaping the site would only take 2 or 3 years at worst. Other estimates come in shorter than this!
Under these circumstances, with much shorter timescales, and with the work being controlled for the sole benefit of Merthyr, (not just to line the pockets of the mining company), there would have been no resistance from us whatsoever.
Q. I've heard that the Health impact study has not been recognised by Miller-Argent or Merthyr Council. In fact they've dismissed it. Is it complete rubbish?
A. The Health Impact study, which looks at the impact of the opencast mining operation on all aspects of the health of the Merthyr community, was funded by the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) via the Welsh Health Impact Assessment Support Unit (WHIASU) and the Wales Centre for Health. The work was carried out by Dr Goldby and her team from the University of Cardiffs School of Social Sciences.
You can see from the credentials that the report comes from a very reputable source, and one that has performed many previous health impact reports including one of the Margam opencast scheme.
Several approaches were made by the WHIASU to the CEO of Merthyr Tydfil council offering their services to perform a Health impact Study, but they were turned down as it was deemed unecessary! This study went ahead at our request.
The work was carried out under very close scrutiny by Dr Goldby's superiors in the University, so the study had to be completely objective and impartial. We were warned that because of this the results could go either way, and we accepted this as fair and just.
Even under these constraints, it has transpired that the results of the study are quite damning of the impact of the opencast scheme.
This obviously displeased those people who had an interest in this mine going ahead at all costs, hence the dismissal of the study and report
Q. I remember talk of a buffer zone. What happened to that?
A. As there is nothing in place to protect communities in Wales from open cast mining operations, we campaigned for a 500M buffer zone with the help and support of Mike German (Liberal Democrats), Jocelyn Davies (Plaid Cymru), Nick Bourne (Conservative), and the remaining independant AMs in early 2005.
This would have brought us in alignment with one of the then current Scottish safeguards.
We managed to organise enough support in the Welsh Assembly (from the opposition side, of course) to table the motion, and in March 2005 it made history by being the first motion vote to go aginst the Welsh Assembly Government since it's inception.
It was passed by one vote when the late Peter Law voted with his conscience and went against the Labour party directive to lend his weight to our side.
As the final approval of any legislation in this area lies with Westminster, and this would hinder their exploitation of as much Welsh coal as possible, they refuse to ratify it.
Scotland are now talking of moving to 1000M buffer zones because of their experience of dust ('spin-dust') and dirt ('fly-rock') still being a problem even with 500M buffer zones.
Whereas, conversely, the Welsh Assembly Government is trying to force through watered down legislation in the form of a Technical Advice Note (TAN) on Coal which is so ineffective that it offers very little or no protection for any communities near to opencast mining operations!
Guidelines for the protection of Mining Companies as such then!
*STOP PRESS*- Jane Davidson, WAG Environment and Planning Minister, has announced that they are looking at implementing a 500M buffer zone at new opencast mining sites to protect the local communities
This is not to be implemented retrospectively, so will not help us in Merthyr. We obviously don't merit protection.
Q. People are saying that you are anti-everything. How can you say that you represent the people of Merthyr
A. Obviously we have our own views on this scheme, but would make no claims without gathering public opinion. We have held events in Merthyr town center and many public meetings to get the views of the Merthyr public. A petition against the scheme was collected which raised 10,000 signatures in a relatively short period of time.
Also a second petition calling for a 500 metre buffer zone was subsequently carried out, with approximately 5,000 people contributing towards it.
People come on to us in the street and offer support; at protests we have tremendous support from from passers by and passing vehicles. We are quite sure that we are representing the views of a significant cross section of the Merthyr community.
We are also very confident that a large proportion of the people that currently don't support us do so because of either a lack of information on the scheme or perhaps a little too much mis-information...
Q. !!!Work in Progress!!!
A. !!!Work in Progress!!!
Q. !!!Work in Progress!!!
A. !!!Work in Progress!!!