Welcome to the
Residents Against Ffos-y-Fran
News and Articles
Friday, 7th January 2011:
Rugby Cement - Supreme Court recognises
possible costs injustice in environmental cases
For those of us who have battled against large companies and
government departments in an attempt to obtain environmental justice, only
to be thwarted by the threat of massive costs by those with bottomless pits
of money will be lifted by this report.
The Supreme Court has today taken an important step towards
securing access to justice. The Court has decided that what people should be
expected to pay when they take cases to court may depend on what an ordinary
person should be expected to pay rather than expecting them to risk all
fear of paying the costs of an opponent, often a big organisation with
expensive lawyers, makes most people think twice before they venture off to
court. For many years this has been a particular impediment for cases about
the environment, where people being altruistic are even less likely to want
to risk losing lots of money.
Such was nearly the fate of Lilian Pallikaropoulos, who lives in
Rugby and has campaigned tirelessly against the expansion of the cement
works there. In 2008 the House of Lords found - despite acknowledged
withholding of information by the Environment Agency - that EU law had been
complied with in the assessment of the potential environmental impact of the
cement works. The government and the Environment Agency, who had both
opposed her case, put in bills totalling more than £88,000.
Following a tortuous appeal of its own decision to award costs
against Mrs Pallikaropoulos in favour of the public authorities, the Supreme
Court has now recognised that EU law relating to costs of legal cases may
not have been approached in the right way. Citing its powers last used in
the Pinochet extradition case to avoid injustice by a court of final appeal,
it has decided to re-open the matter and ask the European Court of Justice
what to do.
The expectation is that the European Court will favour an
approach that renders justice affordable. The spectre of adverse costs
should not have a "chilling effect" on those who seek the court's help in
protecting the environment.
Environmental lawyer Richard Buxton, Mrs Pallikaropoulos'
solicitor, said: "It has become obvious for some time that the costs rules
here are just unacceptable. The pressure has been mounting for change and
particularly over the past year there have been some key decisions pointing
in favour of improving access to justice. This Supreme Court decision
suggests a real turning of the tide."
Lilian Pallikaropoulos said: "I am delighted with this ruling.
Even though Rugby suffers badly from the way the cement plant, which is now
a co-incinerator for waste, was planned, where the predominant wind blows
the pollution over the town, at least this case may help others with
protecting the environment, and their health, and that can only be for the
The decision is consistent with the Ministry of Justice's own
recent proposals to make litigation generally more affordable.
be some time before Luxembourg delivers the last word on the matter but the
effect of the Supreme Court decision should immediately be to make the
courts cautious not to not inhibit environmental challenges through allowing
proceedings to become too expensive.
The full story is at the end of this
Friday, 7th January 2011:
Group Litigation Order by Merthyr
Residents - Appeal
Many people have asked us if the Group Litigation Order (GLO)
challenge by Merthyr Residents is still going forward, or whether it has
been quashed. The GLO is not being organised by the RAFF Group, so we
verified the details with the solicitors, Richard Buxton Environmental &
Public Law Solicitors, and the current situation is that an appeal has been
lodged in the Court of Appeal against the court's decision not to grant the
GLO. So, it is still very much ongoing, with over 500 local residents
In response to a press release issued by Miller Argent, the
opencast coal mining company in November 2010, Paul Stookes, a partner at
Richard Buxton Environmental & Public Law Solicitors noted:
It is quite wrong for Miller Argent to issue a press release
stating that the application by over 500 residents for a Group Litigation
Order to stop the continuing dust and noise was made on behalf of ‘a small
group of objectors’. It is also wrong for Miller Argent to suggest that the
lack of insurance means that any claimants risk significant legal costs if
their claims are ultimately unsuccessful. The claimants will either seek a
protective costs order from the Court or insurance funding will be in place.
Either way, local residents must not be prevented from bringing proceedings
to try and stop the dust and noise pollution being caused due to prohibitive
costs or the threat of being liable for Miller Argent’s costs. Such a
position would be contrary to the Aarhus Convention 1998 and a breach of the
environmental rights of residents affected by noise and dust.
Thursday, 11th November 2010:
Group Litigation Order by Merthyr
Residents - Court Hearing for the Claim in noise and dust pollution from Ffos-y-fran opencast
Litigation Order ((GLO) has come before the court at the Cardiff District
Registry who were to rule on whether the GLO could progress. The court ruled
that there was sufficient evidence to grant a Group Litigation Order (GLO),
but it declined to do so because the insurance position covering some
residents was not sufficiently finalised. The Judge stated that the Court
will reconsider the application for a GLO once the funding position was
The purpose of a GLO is to hear all the claims
together. As there are now over 500 residents seeking to claim against
Miller Argent it is essential to proceed with legal case on this basis.
Monday, 21st September 2010:
RAFF Group member is a finalist for
Environmental campaigner award
Congratulations to our own Alyson
Austin; she came runner up for a national environment campaigner award from
the Sheila McKechnie foundation (we thought that she should have won; of
course!). It's nice to see her being recognised for all her hard work
instead of being castigated! Congratulations to all the finalists and the
winners - they all deserve the accolades, and far more, for their tireless
and selfless efforts.
Monday, 6th September 2010:
Application for a Group Litigation Order by Merthyr
A number of Merthyr Residents have contacted Richard Buxton
Environmental & Public Law Solicitors in relation to dust and noise nuisance
arising from the Ffos-y-fran opencast operations and that they are have
applied for a group litigation order to take nuisance proceedings against
Miller-Argent (South Wales) Ltd in order to stop the dust and noise arising.
The residents claim that the mining operation at Ffos-y-Fran is causing
nuisance and interfering with the use and enjoyment of their homes.
have been experiencing noise and/or dust problems which you believe may be
caused by the opencast then please contact Richard Buxton’s Solicitors on
01223 328933 or by e-mail to:
Monday, 14th June 2010:
RAFF Group members travel over to Rossport,
County Mayo, Eire
Two of our group went over to Rossport, County Mayo to
show solidarity with the community struggle the local people there are
having with Shell. Chris and Alyson Austin made their own way over and met
the bike riders as they rode into Rossport. Fantastic timing; two days
driving across Southern Ireland and they arrived within a half hour of the
***WORK IN PROGRESS - To Be
Link to the Merthyr to Mayo Cyclists
Sunday, 23rd May 2010: The
cyclists start their long ride From Merthyr Tydfil over to Rossport, County
he Merthyr to mayo cyclists left early today heading for
Swansea to catch the Cork ferry to start their trip across Sothern Ireland,
up the West coast to count Mayo. A small community there in Rossport is
having a titanic struggle with Royal Dutch Shell who are attempting to bring
a high pressure gas pipeline through their community. The locals have been
fighting Shell fiercely both on the ground and through the courts to try and
stop the pipeline and have held it off for 10 years! There is an uncanny
similarity with their struggle and that of the residents of Merthyr fighting
the opencast coal mine at Ffos-y-Fran. In fact, if the names and description
was changed it would be difficult to discern which one was being discussed!
Thursday, 17th December 2009:
Miller-Argent's application to move coal by road is
application to vary their planning permission was rejected at a full council
meeting in Merthyr tonight.
They applied to change
the '...all coal must be moved by rail' planning constraint so they can take
coal out by road.
The chief planning
officer recommended that the application be rejected, and the council
members overwhelmingly voted to support him.
It's very heartening to
see a bit of common sense being demonstrated in the council chambers.
It is assumed that
Miller-Argent will be appealing......
Saturday, 5th December 2009:
RAFF Group marches in the Wave demo in London
The Austin family made
representation at The Wave and had a wonderful day. They spoke to many
people all from all corners of society and spread the word about what is
happening up here in Merthyr. There was a lot of interest about BT Pension
Scheme sponsoring opencast coal mining in Merthyr and most people were
dumbstruck when they were told. They couldn't believe that a squeaky clean
company such as BT could be involved in such a foul industry.
I believe that BT has had
an easy run so far with no-one knowing about their investment, but I think
that is set to change!
Have a look at the snaps
Monday, 30th November 2009:
Santa Claus pays a visit to naughty BT in
Santa Claus was so
annoyed with BTs naughtiness, that he paid an early personal visit to their
offices in Bristol. He popped in to complain about the BT Pension Scheme's
involvement with financing the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mining operation through
its wholly owned Hermes fund management group, and their wholly owned Argent
Group, of Miller-Argent fame; (phew! just follow the white rabbit...). He
sung the staff some appropriately worded carols, and left them a lump of
Perhaps it will help BT
mend their ways so as to get them some nice green plaudits next Xmas instead
of dirty old coal...
Invest in the future, BT,
not the past. There's dirt on your hands, time to clean up your act and get
out of coal mining!
Tuesday, 24th November 2009:
Mrs Elizabeth Condron is shortlisted as a peoples
champion on green issues
Condron, a long time supporter of our group, was shortlisted for an
environmental award in a scheme organised by the South Wales Echo. She was
nominated for her efforts in fighting the social injustice caused by the
opencast coal mining operation at Ffos-y-Fran. She made the final three, but
unfortunately didn't win. There's not too much to fret about at the loss
though as all the entrants were well worthy of the win!
Congratulations to her,
and it's nice to see her efforts being recognised at long last.
Wednesday, 7th October 2009:
Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council
fail to get residents
legal aid withdrawn
Council have failed in their callous attempt to remove a local resident’s
right to legal aid.
judge, His Honourable Judge Curran QC said in his judgement that Mrs
Condron’s claim for legal aid was unarguable.
Tydfil Borough Council has not appealed against his decision, so have
effectively dropped their legal challenge.
ridiculous attempt by the council to retrospectively revoke Mrs Condron’s
already granted legal aid, and make her eligible for all legal costs was
a despicable act by a desperate council.
were well aware of the implications of their attempt and had discussed in
private that their intentions were to make Mrs Condron sell her home to
cover the costs of litigation.
your council showing its true colours, malicious and vindictive to all who
challenge their authority.
complete faith in the representation of her solicitor, Mr Paul Stookes, and
her complaint to the European Aarhus Convention will now continue.
Friday, 2nd October 2009:
Liaison meetings have now descended into a farce!
Ffos-y-Fran liaison meeting, run by Miller-Argent, chaired by the council
with a handful of community representatives, has always been of dubious
efficacy, but this Thursdays meeting plumbed new depths.
This meeting is a planning requirement specified in the 106 agreement from
the Welsh Assembly Government (attached to the planning consent).
Miller-Argent (Stephen Tilman) refused to provide minutes for the previous
meeting and then refused to minute this meeting. They refused to provide
figures for complaints, just to say some were received and dealt with.
refused to expand on any notes, other than those that showed Miller-Argent
in a positive light!
Tilman replied only "no comment" to any questions aimed at him that he
decided could be contentious, i.e. most of them.
demeanour toward the community liaison rep, Alyson Austin, was hostile and
aggressive. All her issues and problems raised on behalf of the residents
Stephen Tilman refused point blank to discuss.
attitude was not challenged by the council chairman.
now leaves the liaison meeting ineffective and unworkable, which I believe
is in contravention of their remit under Section 106.
hold a meeting, but refuse to make it effective is intentionally destroying
cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.
Moving Coal by Road
[n.b. - rewritten
Friday 27/11/2009 as the original version was poorly worded - many thanks
for the clarification from Mrs Alyson Austin]
The press have
had a field day on a silly little story about the Brecon Mountain Railway
not being able to buy coal from Ffos-y-Fran and having to buy imported coal
from Russia. You'd think that there was nothing to this, and that perhaps it
was just a slow news day, but you'd be wrong. All the news agencies pushed
the same story in the same way, and shut us out. We had very little input
(seconds only), if any at all. They were all provided with a statement,
either written, or recorded, but none were too keen on putting it out. We
even went down to the Merthyr Express offices and presented a written
statement asking for it's inclusion in the forthcoming edition of the paper;
unsurprisingly it was excluded from his report.
So what is
really going on here?
Miller-Argent presently don't have planning permission to move coal by road
from Ffos-y-Fran, and are currently going through the process of applying
for a variation to their planning permission to allow them to move a
proportion of the coal from Ffos-y-Fran by road. The constraint on their
movement of coal by rail is Condition 37.
application stumbled at planning committee level and they managed to get it
re-presented for consideration by full council (an unprecedented act I may
add). Miller-Argent are looking for support for this application and this
little story would appeal to the press and public at large with it’s
superficial sense of the ridiculous.
What we believe
is going on is this:
The recent press coverage of the Brecon
Mountain Railways need to import coal is cleverly managed propaganda
timed to try and sway public and council opinion before bringing before
full council the planning application to vary planning Condition 37.
Please note that any coal supplied from
Ffos-y-Fran by Miller-Argent to a customer other than Aberthaw would
force a proportionate increase in coal imports to Aberthaw - so there
will be no impact on the overall carbon footprint whatsoever.
The BMR needs only about 3 lorry-loads (90 tonnes) a year, and even
if in the highly unlikely event that Ffos-y-Fran were to supply every
great little railway in Wales it would be less than 7,000 tonnes per
annum. So why is Miller-Argent applying for permission to move 50,000
tonnes of coal by road per annum?
Also, one of the Miller-Argent directors, Bernard Llewellyn is
trying to get planning permission approved for an opencast coal mine in
Varteg, near Pontypool. There isn't any facility to screen and wash the
coal there and, yep, there's one at Cwmbargoed.
...and Varteg may just be the thin edge
of the wedge. More mines to come, all processing their coal through
Cwmbargoed and moving it all by road through Merthyr.
...and please note that Bernard Llewellyn owns the Cwmbargoed washery.
[It has been brought to our attention
(indirectly I may add) that this has been denied by Miller-Argent. The
information provided to us was that he was a partner in
Ryan Plant/Mining which then became Dowlais Top Land
Investments, which owns the Cwmbargoed Washery. We
were told that Bernard Llewellyn remained a partner and
part owner in this enterprise.
If this information is incorrect, please
let us know and we'll amend the report
Tuesday, 11th August 2009:
Climate Camp Cymru - a huge success
privileged to host the very first Climate Camp Cymru (CCC) here in Merthyr
up on unused land at the end of the Goat Mill Road. We attended every
day and had a wonderful time.
a pleasure to spend time with such dedicated, open-minded and intelligent
people. To discuss the pressing issues of global warming and climate change,
and explore solutions.
was warm friendly camaraderie and tolerance, sadly lacking in so many people
workshops, network building, and fun.
RAFF group took part in a workshop and plenary session, and led about 150
people up The Bogey Road to the hills above Kinsey's farm for a guided tour
of the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine and along presentation on the history of
police took a dim view of the walk, but were on the whole peaceful and
approachable. They did turn out in full when we went for a walk though and
lined the road and the hills to stop us getting at the mine; horses and dogs
were deployed - as if we were so threatening that they'd need them and the
many hundreds of police billeted there!
poor unfortunate had a dog set on him and was bitten and arrested for
allegedly committing a public order offence.
was the only black spot on what was a wonderful 5 days.
CCC website for photographs and
Friday, 5th June 2009: Black Rain
The first rain after a protracted dry spell brought black rain to the
residents of Incline Top, and beyond. As we witnessed clouds of coal dust
rising off the mine,
and we've never suffered anything like this prior to the mining operation
starting then we can excuse people from drawing conclusions on the source of the
pollution. But the problem is that Miller-Argent deny that it's
not coming from them and we can't prove otherwise. As it stands, they are
correct, but we are striving to to find a way of identifying the source
of this airborne pollution.
Friday, 29th May 2009: Ms Jane Davidson
won't speak with us, yet again
Jane Davidson addressed
members of FoE Wales and members of the public at an open meeting at
Abergavenny on Friday 22nd May 2009.
Ms Davidson said
several things that varied from highly dubious to just incorrect.
On planning permission, (on
the subject of Ffos-y-Fran) she told everyone that decisions made by others,
before her time in office, could not be changed by her.
This is patently incorrect. Ms Davidson, and
her office, do have the power to amend or revoke planning permission
for the life of that permission. The reasons that she wouldn’t change
planning permission could be that:
(a) she doesn’t want to (b) there is no
political will to change it (c) she is under orders from the party whip in
Westminster not to do so (d) she was threatened by Miller-Argent that they
would drag the WAG through the courts and the cost to the assembly would be
believe that it’s at least 3 out of 4 ! You pick which ones you think
On the subject of the proposed
incinerator, she said that it was nothing to do with her.
Now, the incinerator is
there to burn our waste and reduce our use of landfill (her words), and as
the Minister for the Environment and Sustainability, she is responsible for
this countries (Wales) waste strategy. So where is she coming from with her
statement? Well, I think that she is alluding to the fact that the proposed
incinerator has a power generating capability of greater than 50 MW. This
means that planning permission will be granted not by the WAG, but by
a faceless bunch of bureaucrats forming up a non governmental body based in
Whitehall. This is despicable, but is current law. We believe that this is
the primary reason why this incinerator has been massively over-specified at
750,000 Tonnes per annum to take the decision away from the people of Wales.
mentioning though is that this incinerator forms part of the Wales waste
strategy, and she is very much responsible for that! I think that she will
have a devil of a job trying to justify an incinerator requiring this
throughput of residual waste for the next 30 years while vigorously
championing the driving up of recycling to national class winning figures;
70% targets for residential and business waste.
Ms Davidson was hammering home
the message about recycling, and that we all had to play our part, and we
couldn’t agree with her more strongly. However, we reminded her how well we
were recycling in Merthyr Tydfil, (and we are doing very well), but that
someone has calculated that the total CO2 saved by the towns recycling
efforts for an entire year is negated by the results of one days worth of
activity producing coal at Ffos-y-Fran.
The big wins in
reduction can only come from major political efforts (estimated at 66%);
whether that will be through directives or legislation. So when she says
that we all have to play our part, she must remember that she plays the
largest part! It's not all down to us I'm afraid.
At the end of the meeting,
Jane tried to perform one of her famous disappearing acts, but Mrs Alyson
Austin managed to cut off her retreat and ask her (very nicely I must add)
if she would meet with us and discuss our concerns with the proposed
incinerator. She replied firstly, “I can’t meet with you”, then “I can’t
discuss this proposal..” and then the coup de grace, “..and anyway, I don’t
meet with objectors”.
So it looks like Ms
Jane Davidson will only discuss issues with people who agree with her, (then
incongruously I suppose they wouldn’t have an issue?).
We have the right to
object to any proposed policy that we believe is fundamentally flawed, such
as the proposed incinerator. We are not extremists, or eco terrorists, just
ordinary people who want our views and concerns to be heard by our elected
representative. I have always considered this right as forming the
cornerstone of our democratic society, and don’t think that Ms Davidson
should deny us this privilege. She has refused to speak to us since she took
office in July 2007, and I think now is the time for her to take the
opportunity to change that.
If there is a reason
why she won’t or can’t speak to us, then why not explain this to us civilly,
and not just dismiss us out of hand. Surely, that’s just common decency and
not too much to ask for?
Come on Jane, have the
courage of your convictions. Surely an extremely educated person such as
yourself, who has spent many a long hour coming to the decisions that you
have made on the environmental future of Wales should be able sell them to a
fairly ordinary middle aged couple from Merthyr? You’re a parent the same as
us, you must understand our concerns.
You have nothing to
fear from us, we just want to sit down with you and discuss rationally the
flaws we perceive in the proposal for the Brig-y-Cwm incinerator, whenever
and wherever you’d like to meet us.
Thursday, 28th May 2009: Miller-Argent
complain about our 'revelations' on their financiers, BT pension scheme!
complaining in their latest newsletter that the significance of the fact
that they are being funded by the BT Pension Scheme has been hyped up by us
and other sources.
I think that they are
really struggling if this is the worst accusation that they can come up
This news has been on
our website for well over a year now, and they've not had anything to say
about it until now. The 'revelation' at that time was not that they were
funded by the oh so ethical BT Pension Scheme/Hermes/Argent chain, but that
the only people publically acknowledging the link was Miller-Argent
I can find no mention
of the funding of the opencast mining of Ffos-y-Fran on the Web sites for
BT, BT Pensions, or Hermes, no direct reference to the mining
operation whatsoever actually If there is
any at all, then it’s very well hidden.
There is an indirect
reference is from Stephen Tillman’s resume on the Argent site saying that he
is Director Miller Argent (South Wales) Limited, and a reference as follows:
1996 - Joint venture with Miller Group Ltd to reclaim land
at Ffos-y-fran, South Wales (no mention of the coal mining activity here
then!), and down the bottom of a scroll bar we now have Ffos-y-Fran
Ooh, my mistake Ive found Argent have added Ffos-y-Fran to the bottom of
their list of projects - Doesn't fit in very well with the rest of their
portfolio though!!! - you'll love the 'Argent Attitude' , especially
have switched our own premises to a 'green' electricity tariff
Coal a bit to dirty to handle in actuality then, but OK to make money from.
Now they're looking to expand in this area with other 'reclamation' projects
', but are also saying '...as does the
emphasis on reducing energy and water demands and carbon emissions.
' and a green award 'North
West Property Week Awards - The Green Award
in 2008 for
Piccadilly Place '. Sounds
very much at odds with coal mining doesn't it?}
Look for yourselves on:
If you find any direct
references, please help me out and let me know at:
Surely they would be
happy to demonstrate their involvement with such a large, prestigious and
lucrative project such as Ffos-y-Fran? No? Oh well, it seems that the only
people crowing about the arrangement is Miller-Argent themselves.
Why is this I wonder?
Surely it can’t be
because the financiers don’t want to be publically associated with this
controversial environmental disaster in the valleys? Maybe they are happy to
take the not so insubstantial profits, but they have far too green and
ethical an image to maintain (superficially anyway) to have any public
involvement with the opencast coal mining industry, especially in this day
It sounds like
Miller-Argent. are being treated as pariahs in these financial circles, and
the opencast mine may just be a little bit of an embarrassment to them? As
the mining operation at Ffos-y-Fran, coupled with the burning of this coal
at Aberthaw contribute to the highest greenhouse gas production in Wales.
Then couple this with the negative social impact of the mining operation itself,
then just maybe these ethical companies feel a little uncomfortable about
coming out of the closet over their relationship?
Social, ethical and
‘Companies should manage effectively
relationships with their employees,
customers and with others who have a
interest in the company’s activities.
should behave ethically and have regard for
environment and society as a whole.’
‘Companies should support voluntary and
statutory measures which minimise the
of costs to the
detriment of society at large.’
Saturday, 28th April 2009: A changing
climate for coal
A great article from Gordon James - Western Mail
With coal the largest single cause of climate
change, can new technologies offer any future
for the coal industry in Wales?
Here in Wales there is a strong cultural and
emotional attachment to coal. Welsh industry was
built on it, and much of our Welsh culture is
the product of the strong communities the
While some have welcomed the demise of an
industry that caused so much ill-health, death,
pollution and social deprivation, a number of
influential voices are proclaiming that King
Coal has a glowing future, claiming coal can now
be burned ‘cleanly’.
This is, for now, a false promise. Gains in
efficiency have been relatively small, and
burning more coal would only push our emissions
of carbon dioxide (CO2) to ever-more dangerous
Coal is the largest single cause of climate
change. Half the CO2 humans have ever emitted is
from burning this dirtiest of fossil fuels. It
is also the main reason why Britain has emitted
more CO2 per head of population than any other
Any future for coal hinges on our ability to
capture and store underground the CO2 it emits.
But this carbon capture and storage (CCS)
technology is not likely to be commercially
available until around 2020. Until then, we
cannot even be considering new coal-fired power
stations, and, instead, should be making all
possible efforts to reduce our dependence on
this prime source of carbon dioxide.
Does this mean there is no place for Welsh
coal until CCS is a commercial reality? More
than 70% of the coal used in the UK today is
imported. If Welsh coal replaced some of these
imports it could provide a temporary lifeline to
the coal industry and would save the carbon cost
of transporting millions of tonnes from Russia
and South Africa.
The risk, though, is that Welsh coal output
and imports would both increase on the promise
of CCS in the future. This would be disastrous.
Coal use has to be drastically reduced
everywhere if we are to stand a chance of
overcoming the immense threat of climate change.
The strongest opposition to the use of coal
is coming from some of the world’s leading
climate scientists. One of the most respected,
Professor James Hansen of NASA, wrote recently
that ‘coal is the single greatest threat to
civilization and life on this planet’.
Coal-fired power stations are, he said,
‘factories of death’.
The Western Mail last September carried
similar comments by Welshman Sir John Houghton.
Sir John, formerly head of the UK Met Office and
senior scientist with the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change, said: “We should put a
block on coal leaving Wales to go into new
coal-fired power stations unless they’ve got
These scientists have good reason to be
alarmed. Evidence is showing that climate change
is happening much sooner and with greater
intensity than was predicted, and that we have
little time left to avoid catastrophic
An important customer for Welsh coal is the
Aberthaw power station. Along with the Port
Talbot steel works, Aberthaw is the single
largest emitter of CO2 in Wales. Its emissions
in 2006 rose to more than seven million tonnes,
a figure that could rise to 10 million tonnes in
The company that operates Aberthaw, RWE
npower, has recently been given the go-ahead to
build a large liquid natural gas (LNG) power
station at Pembroke. This was opposed by both
Friends of the Earth Cymru and the Countryside
Council of Wales, because it will dump large
quantities of waste warm water into the
environmentally important Milford Haven
waterway. The heat wasted by this power station
would heat 350,000 homes.
This provides an indication of how energy
wasteful we still are, despite the frightening
predictions of climate change and growing
concerns about energy security. If our political
leaders were serious about these issues they
would insist that the LNG is only burned in
combined heat and power (CHP) stations, so the
waste heat is usefully used.
CHP is not rocket science – it is common
practice in many other countries. In fact, in
the late 1990s, the present Government’s policy
– designed to protect the coal industry – was to
allow only CHP gas-fired power stations.
CHP is just one example of the technologies
available that can help us meet our energy needs
and reduce our climate-changing impacts by
burning less coal. It is these technologies that
we must support and develop, to drive the ‘green
economy’ revolution – a revolution that world
leaders are now recognising as central in
overcoming the twin threats of economic
recession and climate change.
While the finger of blame is often pointed in
the direction of China and India as they expand
their economies in order to raise millions out
of abject poverty, we have to accept
responsibility for the leading role that we have
taken in fuelling climate change. Wales still
ranks 13th in the international league of worst
emitters per person, while research has shown
that a third of China’s emissions are caused by
the manufacture of goods to other countries. As
we have cut manufacturing output in the UK we
have exported our emissions to China.
As political inaction slides us closer to
devastating climate change, more people are
turning their backs on the political system and
taking up direct action. Their main target, as
protests at Ffos-y-fran, Aberthaw, Kingsnorth
and the UK Coal Authority’s meeting in Cardiff
have all shown, is coal. The future for King
Coal may not burn so brightly after all.
(Gordon James is director of Friends of the
Saturday, 14th February 2009: Miller-Argent crank the noise up a notch !
Our caring, sharing mining company, Miller-Argent have decided that it’s now time to go ‘balls out’ with the noise from Ffos-y-Fran. This last week (26th to 31st January 2009) has been absolutely horrific! They have been made fully aware of how loud it is but are once again treating the local residents with complete disdain. The site staff have been trying to reposition excavators to reduce the noise, but it’s an almost impossible task whilst they still have to comply with the company directive, and manage the noise from the huge Komatsu 3000 excavators.
Miller-Argent are supposed to be a self regulating company, but have in fact no effective method of monitoring the noise levels at the locations that are impacted most by the noise pollution (those of us who are in direct line of sight of the heavy machinery).
The mining company have installed two monitoring stations, and both of them are in positions that don’t give a representative view of the noise profile, or provide coverage for the vast majority of the affected populace. One is in a house up the side of the mine on the Bogey Road in a dip behind large earthworks and hence shielded from the bulk of the noise output, and the second is in a dip at the edge of Mount View housing estate next to a dual carriageway, again low down behind a large earthworks.
The first monitoring station is in a scantily populated area (less than 6 houses) and measures a significantly reduced noise output than is being directed at the town. The second is recording road noise only.
In a town with a population of approximately 70,000 people, this dismal attempt at noise monitoring provides monitor coverage for only about 50 people!
The upshot of this is that the mining company can comply with the letter of the planning consent, but at no risk of identifying any noise nuisance or breach of sound level constraints.
Miller-Argent are refusing to relocate either monitoring station, or provide
a supplementary station in direct line of sight of their work, and there doesn't
appear to be any pressure from the council to do so either.
We are of the understanding that the positioning of these monitoring
stations was ratified by the council and the Welsh Assembly Government -
it's so nice to be supported by your elected representatives, isn't it?
They are denying that they are producing a noise nuisance, or exceeding the planning constraints, both statements being made with little, or no supporting empirical evidence.
We currently only have an ‘amateur’ noise meter, but we believe that this is quite accurate enough to give us a good indication of the sound levels, and we regularly take readings well in excess of the levels prescribed in the planning constraints. Of course, our readings carry no weight whatsoever in the legal world; they would have to be monitored professionally.
They are allowed to produce noise up to a maximum of 55dbA in the ‘daytime’, in this case 07:00 – 19:00, and 42dbA maximum between 19:00 and 23:00. Believe me, these noise levels are far from acceptable and noise at 55dbA will permeate the house, but at the moment, it’s all we have and aligning with these levels would benefit us greatly. These sound levels are supposed to be the maxima, not the norm and levels lower than this should be what we are most regularly subjected to. In reality they tend to work at the maximum figures and, in our opinion, well beyond.
The type of noise that they produce is not like road noise which rises and falls, has different frequencies and sound levels, and with wide variations throughout the day. This variety makes the noise more tolerable (a relative statement, I know). The noise from the massive Komatsu 3000 diggers is a constant drone; the engines get up to optimal working speed, say 2500-3000 RPM, at 7am then stay at this level until they shut the things down at the end of the day – currently 10pm, but planning permission allows them to work until 11pm. It is a constant low frequency drone which penetrates throughout the house; and this is with our doors and windows shut! Obviously, it’s much worse in the quieter rooms, bedrooms and bathrooms. Outside the house, or with the windows open, the noise is now intolerable. It’s like having a diesel van parked outside the front of your house with the engine running on fast tick-over, all day long; we wake up to it and go to bed when it stops. We liken it to the Chinese water torture, by the end of the day the noise is drilling into your brain.
This can’t go on any longer; it is morally and socially irresponsible. This is a classic example of placing productivity and profits above social responsibility.
We call on Miller-Argent to look to their conscience and demonstrate that they can demonstrate corporate responsibility by reducing the noise output from the Ffos-y-Fran mining operation to a level that gives back an acceptable quality of life to the local residents of Merthyr Tydfil. They have to realise that they are making our life a living Hell; we now just exist, lurching from one day to the next. We have years of this to go yet, and I for one am not sure I’ll see the end of it.
We aren’t asking for the impossible, as they quite regularly work at levels that are virtually inaudible to us. Admittedly this is when there is any media interest, or a political dignitary is on site, or if they believe what they are doing will aid, or result in, some sort of legal prosecution…; but whatever the reason, they can work quietly if they so desire to. They achieve this by using lots of smaller diggers when working in noise sensitive positions and by moving the Komatsu 3000s behind earthworks, or down in ‘the hole’.
The planning consent for opencast mining at Ffos-y-Fran (or Merthyr Common as it is better known) has been turned down many occassions across the last 40 years because of its impact on the residents of Merthyr. There has been much and continued house building near to Ffos-y-Fran since then, but planning consent was still given against the will of the people of Merthyr. Miller-Argent won this by mitigating the major concerns by saying that modern mining methods would ensure that there would be no significant impact on the local community, and that all coal would be moved by rail. The modern mining methods have never transpired, and they are now looking to move coal by road. Their modern mining methods appear to be; buy the biggest, noisiest diggers on the market; place them on a hillside in direct line of sight of a large section of the Merthyr community, then crank them up and dig flat-out for as long as they can get away with it.
In the absence of Miller-Argent becoming a socially responsible company, we call on Merthyr Tydfil borough council to put effective monitoring in place and to direct Miller-Argent to comply with the spirit of their planning consent.
It is now becoming obvious, even to those who originally supported this opencast mine, that Miller-Argent can not be trusted to regulate themselves and need to be externally moderated. This has been a long time in coming, but their actions this week have brought home their lack of concern and self control.
There has been an injustice committed here in Merthyr Tydfil, and we will work ceaselessly to bring it to the attention of the world. (I’d like to say tirelessly, but I’m knackered, 5 years is a long time…). If we are stuck with the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine then we’ll ensure that the operation is carried out with the best interests of the local residents in mind. That’s their quality of life, their health and well being, not some pie-in-the-sky financial benefits.
This injustice is being repeated at many opencast mining sites across South Wales and we are networking with other opencast mining communities in an attempt to share common aims.
The weather up here has been pretty bad most of this week and last, with snow and ice most days, so on the whole we’ve not had to suffer the noise
for too long over this period. We’ve very much enjoyed the hiatus, but
are dreading the return to the norm. Perhaps if all our readers could do a
rain (or snow, fog, tornado) dance last thing at night to give us a bit of
peace it would be much appreciated...
Wednesday, 29th January 2009: Weasel words and cop-out clauses: The MTAN 2 for coal is released - it includes a 500m buffer Zone, but for whom?
The WAG have released the technical advice note for coal, which contains what it describes as the safeguards for residents living close to opencast operations.
We've read through a copy, and although superficially it appears to introduce the protection of a 500m buffer zone, they quickly give themselves the opportunity to
refuse it with the exceptional circumstances clauses in Section 49. These are in fact in fact the the usual circumstances for opencast mines.
Section 49 says the following:
“Exceptionally, having considered the evidence put forward with a
surface or underground coal working application, coal working may be permitted
within 500m of settlements. Factors to be considered include:
• where coal working provides the most effective solution to prevent
risks to health and safety arising from previous mineral working;
• to remediate land damaged by shallow coal workings or mine waste,
where coal extraction appears to be the most sustainable option;
• where topography, natural features such as woodland, or existing
development, would significantly and demonstrably mitigate impacts;
• where major roads or railways lie between the settlement and the
proposed operational area and coal working would not result in appreciable
cumulative and in-combination effects;
• where the surface expression of underground working does not
include the significant handling or storage of the mineral or waste;
• when the proposal is of overriding significance for regeneration,
employment and economy in the local area; or
• where extraction would be in advance of other, permanent, development which cannot reasonably be located elsewhere.”
If Ffos-y-Fran were to come up for planning permission now it would fall foul of at least 4 of these exclusions and would be denied the 500m buffer zone, even though we are having significant problems with this mine,
and the duration of the operation is as long as any mine around at 17 years we would be afforded no 500m buffer zone protection.
[n.b. – Miller-Argent have already said this to the BBC Online interviewer this week. See the BBC Online News report at:
This all revolves around the fact that if there is any remediation or reclamation work involved then the work is immediately reclassified/renamed as ‘Land Reclamation’ not ‘Opencast mining’. Don’t forget that the work at
Ffos-y-Fran is termed ’Land Reclamation by Opencast Mining methods’, even though the reclamation work would have (estimated) taken 2, maybe 3 years, but the coal mining operation will take 17 years at 6 days a week!!!
(16 hours a weekday , 8 Hrs on Saturday; Sunday off). It's a farce really, isn't it? We don't get protection because the smallest percentage of the work (11.75% if 2 years, 17.5% if 3 years) is termed ‘reclamation’.
Virtually all, if not all coal seams have been worked to some extent previously, so the planning department can always say that the area needs remedial work to make it safe. The coal authority has already demonstrated that they are
quite willing to take this approach when they supported the Heolgerrig/Merthyr Village proposal!
Then if all else fails they have the final catch all:
“when the proposal is of overriding significance for regeneration, employment and economy in the local area“
This card can be played under any circumstance, and there we are again, no 500m buffer zone!
I don't think that Ffos-y-Fran is unique here, and this is the way it will be applied in almost all cases. I'm sure that some of the smaller or most unimportant sites will be rejected or will get a 500m zone as a sop to make it look like the MTAN
is being used for the benefit of the community, but it will not make a jot of a difference to those opencast mining proposals that the WAG (and Westminster) wish to go ahead.
Wednesday, 29th January 2009: The RAFF group is asking the European courts to look at our missing environmental impact assessment
The WAG have failed us, the residents of Merthyr Tydfil, by not performing an environmental impact assessment, which is a European Directive. They compounded it by refusing to take the opportunity to put this right.
when they were asked to revisit and revoke the planning permission in June 2007.
The RAFF group, through their legal representative in this case, Mr Paul Stookes, have asked the European Parliament to investigate the Welsh assembly Governments refusal to revoke the planning permission given to Miller-Argent at Ffos-y-Fran.
We believe that the develoment is in breach of a European directive governing environmental impacts because a proper assessment was not carried out.
Sunday, 30th November 2008: ABERTHAW and Carbon Capture - A myth?
There's a lot being said about Carbon Capture being the saviour of the coal industry and coal powered generating industry in Wales, and I've had a look at what is really
happening instead of the extremely misleading information coming from government and corporate sources!
Don't forget, the Ffos-y-Fran opencast coal mine is supplying about 20-25% of the coal being burnt at Aberthaw, and it is planned to do so for the next 17 years.
Aberthaw is the biggest polluter in Wales (The Industrial Pollution league table 2006: In 2006 the power station pumped out more than 7.4million tonnes of CO2 (carbon dioxide)), and in the top 5 largest polluters in Britain. The most
damaging pollutant of these is CO2, a 'greenhouse gas' responsible for having the greatest impact on climate change in the world today.
Aberthaw will be implementing a pilot scheme, but this is to be a 1MW (mega Watt) 'post-combustion' pilot plant which is an experimental trial only. Considering that Aberthaw outputs 1500 MW, then this would only be removing an insignificant 0.15% of the CO2 output from the plant.
But....there don't appear to be any plans to store the CO2 from this experiment, so there will be no impact on the CO2 output whatsoever!
There are no further plans to be found for Carbon Capture at Aberthaw - all further developments which will come as a result of this trial will be at their proposed new power stations in Tilbury - Essex, and at Blyth - Northumberland.
So, Aberthaw will continue to burn the coal from the South Wales coalfields completely unfettered for the rest of it's working life, which has been extended to 2025! Even my poor maths gives approximately 7.5 mega tonnes x 17 = 127,500,000 tonnes of CO2 into our atmosphere.
If you want misleading, try this statement from RWE Power:
We are considering options for new coal plants at Tilbury in Essex and Blyth
in Northumberland, which would be able to generate 3,000 MW. Thanks to
new cleaner-coal technology, these plants will have greater thermal efficiency.
We are also investing £8.4 million in our first pilot CO2 capture plant at
Aberthaw in South Wales, which is due to be fully operational in 2010.
- RWE npower Corporate Responsibility Report - Strategic challenges
I'm not sure how you read that, but to me on first reading I would think that CC will be in soon and will solve all the problems with CO2 emissions at these coal fired power stations! It's more by omission than anything, but I believe misleading anyway.
Miller-Argent circulated a big and glossy pamphlet around the Merthyr Tydfil area saying that:
RWE Npower, who is the operator of
Aberthaw, is very close to completing
a £200m investment in Flue Gas
De-sulphurisation plant which will reduce
the sulphur emissions by up to 95%. The
first Carbon Dioxide Capture pilot plant in
the UK is also to be built at Aberthaw and
the first phase could be fully operational
by 2010. - The Newsletter for the Ffos-y-fran Land Reclamation Scheme Issue 002 Spring 2008
Again, this is not incorrect as a statement when read with the full facts in mind, but without them it promises so much for the future of clean coal at Aberthaw, which looks very much pie-in-the-sky now!
The de-sulpherisation plant had to be installed by European mandate, or the power station would have been forced to close! So it was not for purely altruistic reasons at all! This has allowed them to continue working and even increase the output of the plant, so effectively with the
efficiency reduction caused by the implementation of the technology itself, they have increased the CO2 output! (Enterprise, Innovation and Networks Committee
EIN(2) 03-07 (p.5)Date: 8 March 2007Venue)
Now try this statement from Greenpeace:
CCS isn't commercially viable; there are no commercially operating CCS plants in the world. And for all the industry's obfuscation, the new plant at Kingsnorth won't be able to capture and store carbon; it will just be ready to incorporate CCS should the technology ever become viable in the future.
Whether this will ever happen is unknowable. A UN report predicts that CCS won't be able to play any significant role for decades, and the bulk of its deployment would take place in the second half of this century - and even then only if the appropriate subsidy mechanisms and policy drivers are put in place.
Even Chancellor Alistair Darling - a supporter of coal - admits that CCS "may never work". "Yes, carbon capture and storage, if it can be developed, would help," he said. "But at this stage we cannot be certain of that. There is no commercial scale operation of CCS on power generation anywhere in the world."
So E.ON wants to build a plant that will pump out as much CO2 as thirty developing countries, year on year, in the hope that, at some unspecified point in the future, CCS technology will become viable. As [George] Monbiot [one of
Britain's leading environmentalists] says: "We could be stuck with a new generation of coal-burning power stations,
approved on the basis of a promise that never materialises, which commit us to massive emissions for 40 years."
Scary, isn't it? Well it surely scares the Hell out of me! It looks very much like there is no real political will to reducing our CO2 output, just a load of rhetoric to placate the-man-in-the-street and buy the government some breathing room.
Many scientists across the world believe that we are getting very close to the tipping point for runaway climate change and a lack of commitment now could very well reduce our future options to zero.
Gordon James, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru has said: The Welsh Assembly Government has said it wants Wales to be a world leader in tacking climate change, and that means there will have to be significant changes in the way we source our energy.
Aberthaw Power Station is a dirty dinosaur that cannot be allowed to continue in its present form. The European Commission is promising tougher emission standards, and change is inevitable. There is no excuse for not taking action to reduce the carbon emissions from Aberthaw and elsewhere.
To wrap up; as fossil fuels go coal is a serious contender for the dirtiest known. But despite the fact that coal-burning generators produce twice the carbon emissions of gas burners, the government intends to build £20 billion worth of new coal-burning generators by 2020.
Ciara, a member of Bristol Rising Tide states: “The burning of coal at Aberthaw and the new power stations across the UK such as Kingsnorth will only exacerbate the problems of climate chaos. People need to know that the government is hell bent on returning us to the dark age of fossil fuel.”
Monday, 24th November 2008: Panorama - The Big Dig
The Panorama program 'The Big Dig' will air on BBC1 on Monday 1st December (20:30 - 21:00) and explores the impact of opencast coal mining on the local residents. Our own Alyson Austin was
interviewed at length, and we are hopeful of a significant amount of it making it onto the screen. Our plight is starting to attract the interest of the country as a whole now,
and elevating it from just a local issue!
The program synopsis in the Radio Times is: Should burning British coal help secure the UK's future energy supply? The Government thinks so. In an apparent U-turn, it is backing a new wave of opencast mining in spite of fierce opposition
from local communities. But what will be the cost to the countryside, and can coal ever come clean to match our promise to cut carbon emissions?
Thursday, 17th April 2008: Argent Unmasked!!
The Argent group, of mining company Miller-Argent fame, has a little secret...they are a wholly owned subsidiary of the BT Pensions Group!
In 1997 Argent was acquired for £240 million by BT Pension Scheme, at that time Argent's principal development partner. BT Pension Scheme is the largest pension fund in the UK.
The Guardian yesterday (16th April 2008) carried a small article revealing this fact:
Eco Soundings - John Vidal and David Adam - The Guardian, Wednesday April 16 2008.
Digging an ethical hole
'The giant Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine outside Merthyr Tydfil will contribute more to climate change emissions than any other mine in Britain over the next few years. But property development group Argent, which is one half of the joint venture, prefers to talk about how green its buildings are.
"We are trying to deliver lower energy, greener buildings in the right locations," it says. What Argent does not say, but which has been dug out by a rather shocked Friends of the Earth Swansea, is that Argent is wholly owned by BT's pension fund, which was voted Britain's top ethical pension fund last year'.
You won't find any mention of Ffos-y-Fran on the Argent website or the BT pensions site. Don't they want us all to know about their involvement in this prestigious redevelopment scheme? Name and Shame!
Take a look at the comment
[here] from the 'Building' website. He doesn't have all the facts about our argument but still presents a very good article.
Saturday, 5th April 2008: Fossil Fools/Fuels Week - what a week!
A series of events took place this week to highlight the idiocy of investing in fossil fuels when the impact on the climate of burning the stuff is now fairly well accepted.
On Tuesday, a group of like minded individuals invaded the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mining site and chained themselves to the main gates, machinery, and climbed on top of the high washery building.
Besides causing havoc at the site itself, they attracted a lot of media interest and managed to get their message across on the mines impact on the climate, and also it's more immediate impact on the local residents of Merthyr Tydfil.
As Aberthaw power station is the main beneficiary of the coal mining operation at Ffos-y-Fran it made itself the target for another demonstration on Thursday. People from all over Britain took the opportunity to show their dissatisfaction with
the governments energy policy (or the lack of one!) by staging a peacful protest on the power station site.
The week, for us, culminated on Saturday with a march against climate change, and Ffos-y-Fran from the top of Merthyr down around the town center, finishing with an open air rally outside the Merthyr Council offices.
The speakers were: Mike German - Leader of the Lib/Dems in Wales, Jill Evans - Plaid MEP and Deputy Leader of Plaid Cymru , Gordon James - Director FoE Cardiff, George Monbiot Journalist and Environmentalist, and last but certainly not least
our Terry Evans, Chairman of the RAFF Group. Also attending were Leanne Wood and Bethan Jenkins showing further representation from Plaid Cymru
A mock wedding was staged which was an hilarious send-up of a marriage made in Hell between Miller-Argent (the groom) and Merthyr Council (the bride), it makes very funny though poignant reading.
-click here for a transcript-
A public meeting followed at St davids Church hall, and then a let-your-hair down evening with live music, dancing, and poetry from some extremely talented artists.
A grand time was had by all! apart from, of course, Miller-Argent, Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council, the WAG, RWE npower at Aberthaw, etc...
A week to remember, and something to build a future upon.
Wednesday, 5th March 2008: Ooerr... Secret Squirrel! Not in the Public Interest, obviously...
The Merthyr Tydfil borough Council,
met in secret today to consider the impact of enforcement action as part of
the High Court claim that has been lodged against the council over the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine.
Solicitor Paul Stookes, representing neighbouring resident Elizabeth Condron, said: “A claim has been issued against Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council because it is unwilling to enforce a planning condition that there should be no excavation beyond a certain distance which is, at its closest, 70 metres from people’s homes.
He continues “Such a failure to enforce the condition will allow the operators to excavate right up to the site boundary, which is as close as 35 metres from local residents. We consider this to be unlawful and in the absence of agreement by the council to enforce, are having to ask the High Court to intervene.”
Tuesday, 4th March 2008: Welsh Assembly debate 500m Buffer Zone
The Welsh Assembly today sat today to debate the introduction of a 500m buffer zone for all future opencast mining schemes in Wales.
The Welsh Assembly Government is proposing tougher rules following the row over Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine. Residents (us!) have protested about the mine, claiming there will not be enough protection from noise, dust and pollution,(you'd better believe it!)
Campaigners (us again!) against Ffos-y-Fran, who have called for the 500m (1,640ft) buffer zone, welcomed the debate.
Editors Comment: I cannot understand the argument that a 500m buffer zone is to be introduced to protect the quality of life of people living near opencast sites, but only for some people. How does Jane Davidson reconcile applying the obviously needed protection to some, but not others? Either there is a need for people to be protected, or there isn't. It cannot be arbitrarily applied
In a similar vein, there can either be a need for the buffer zone to be 500m, or not, it cannot be any less. If 500m affords protection, anything less will erode that protection.
Tuesday, 19th February 2008: New Green Energy plans for Wales
WAG Environment Minister, Jane Davidson,
announced plans for a greener energy policy for Wales in the future. She is calling it a "route map" on renewable energy.
She said Wales could "lead the battle" against climate change, as its coal powered the industrial revolution.
I'd love to think that our efforts have helped at least a little in this laudable change of direction.
Friday, 15th February 2008: No Peace for the Wicked
After a brief respite from the mining noise over the month of January, we have been plunged back into mining hell over the last couple of weeks.
We have had to suffer incessant and intrusive noise when mining recommenced recently. Loud low frequency droning noise echoing throughout the house, with nowhere to go to escape from it.
Despite assurances (since mid December 2007!!!) that they will be building up earthworks to damp down the noise, nothing has been put in place. Apparently, this can't be put in place overnight... OK, but it's been about 9-10 weks now! Surely building big 'berms' with a bulldozer can't take that long?
Don't forget, they turned the whole mountainside into a good likeness of the Somme in just a few weeks...
Friday, 8th February 2008: Call for Judicial Review of Merthyr Tydfil County Council's unwillingness to enforce control on mining boundaries
Mr Paul Stookes, Solicitor, on behalf of Mrs Elizabeth Condron, today presented Merthyr Town council with a High Court claim.
As reported in the South Wales Echo today, the High Court have been asked to intervene after the council failed to agree to enforce the boundaries on the mining operation at Ffos-y-Fran
which would allow them to work up to 35 Metres from the nearest residents. This is seen to be a breach of planning permission.
Thursday, 7th February 2008: Jane Davidson offers 500M buffer zone to Wales
Jane Davidson, the WAG Environment Minister,
has today stated that they are looking to implement a 500M buffer zone for future opencast mining schemes in Wales. As this won't be retrospectively introduced, it will not be applied to Ffos-y-Fran.
It's ironic that we have fought for this protection for the last 5 years, both for ourselves and for Wales, and now it is to be denied to us!
The reason it has been introduced is for exactly the same reason that we have campaigned for, the impact on nearby residents, and have been told to date (by the WAG) that such protection was not required!
The question is - did Jane offer this out of the goodness of her heart? Or did she succumb to the pressure that we have heaped on the WAG over the last few years, and most especially this year?
Obviously, I couldn't possibly comment....but I'm pretty sure I know how Jane will sell it!
Wednesday, 30th January 2008: A brief respite
We have had no significant mining carried out in close proximity to our homes since Christmas. Although this is gratefully received, I'm pretty sure that it's not been done out of the goodness of their hearts!
We can only speculate as to why this is, but we have enjoyed a little bit of normality over the last month and this has made us even more determined to put a stop to this thing, or at the very least get a buffer zone implemented.
Wednesday, 14th December 2007: A new Legal Challenge?
It is hoped that the fight in the courts can be continued. A case has been assembled, but it is awaiting approval from the high court. Watch this space, and keep your fingers crossed!
14th December 2007: Thanks for nothing...
The mining operation has now stepped up a good few notches and the residents of Twyn, Mountain Hare, and Incline Top are now suffering incessant noise for 16 hours a day. The nearest residents are experiencing significant dust and dirt fallout, the source of which has to be confirmed because Miller-Argent have denied responsibility even though they are mining only 37 Metres away, and there has been no previous history of significant fallout!.
We have asked Miller-Argent to be more sensitive at the extreme ends of the day (they are working 07:00 to 23:00), but they have flatly refused.
These are just the early days of infrastructure work; God help us all when they start the mining proper
13th December 2007: WAG refuses to revoke the Planning Permission
After 7 months of obfuscating, the Welsh Assembly Government have refused to revoke the planning permission for the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine. Although a significant amount of information was provided to them detailing many irregularities during the planning process they stated that there was nothing that would impact the decision.
Ms. Jayne Davidson (the Minister for Environment and Planning) did not have the courtesy to come up to Merthyr and see the mining operation and speak with the group, or any of the residents. When they finally deigned to make a decision on the appeal, they didn't even give us the courtesy of informing us directly, they informed the South Wales Echo who then got in touch with us.
It makes me so proud to be supported by such a caring Welsh government...!
Wednesday, 5th December 2007: A day of Protest
Environmental activists invade the mining site demonstrating their support for our cause, and their opposition to the heavy investment in fossil fuel when the detrimental impact of such is so very well understood.
In a parallel protest, members of our group protested (in appalling weather) on the A4066 'Slip-road' roundabout opposite the site. A great deal of support was shown by passing traffic and many thanks to them all. Special thanks also to all those who stopped to make personal representation.
We were encouraged by the even handed representation we were dealt by the press and TV News reporters, who all attended the protest...but strangely with the exception of our local newspaper.
Wednesday, 14th November 2007 : Planning Revocation Meeting
The Merthyr Tydfil County Council sat at 17:00 today to vote on the revocation of the planning permission for Miller-Argent Mining to operate the Ffos-y-Fran Opencast mine. A letter had been written by Gareth Chapman, the councils legal officer to the Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) rejecting the offer to revoke the planning permission and passing the
responsibility for such back to the WAG.
With it being a large majority Labour controlled council there was very little question on which way the vote would go, but the way it proceeded stunned even the more hardened members amongst us!
Mr Harvey Jones, the head of the council, stated at the beginning of the meeting that he wanted it recorded that anyone voting for the revocation of the planning permission was supporting the bankrupting of Merthyr Council, and would be deemed to be showing contempt for the council. It would be an open vote and their names would be recorded.
With the thinly veiled threat that they would be dealt with severely after the event. It was obviously passed, with all Labour councillors voting to send the letter to the WAG, with the only opposition coming from the
independent council members.
It was suggested that amendments to the permission be raised, e.g. protection of the nearest communities by implementing a 500M buffer zone. This suggestion was dismissed out-of-hand by Harvey Jones and Gareth Chapman. They said that any revocation or amendments to this planning permission would result in the bankrupting of Merthyr Council. So no pressure there then!
16th March 2005: Motion for a 500M Buffer Zone passed in Welsh Assembly
A very historic victory occurred today when our motion for a 500M buffer zone was passed in the Welsh Assembly despite the best efforts of the Labour run Welsh Assembly Government to scupper it.
This came about by meticulous planning and organisation by ourselves and representatives of all the opposition parties and independents. The Labour party vote was directed by party policy and they had to vote against the motion, but one Labour party member voted with his conscience, the late Peter Law, to swing the vote in our favour.
It has proved to be a pyrrhic victory though, as Westminster refuse to ratify the motion as it would spoil their plans for the maximum exploitation of Welsh coal supplies.
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