Posted: Fri 1st Dec 2023

Residents and Campaigners Call for Restoration of Ffos y Fran Coal Mine in Merthyr

news.wales / newyddion.cymru
This article is old - Published: Friday, Dec 1st, 2023

A revised restoration plan for the Ffos y Fran opencast coal mine in Merthyr could be submitted early next year as resident and campaigners are calling for the site to be restored and made safe.
The council has said but that there are legal proceedings related to Ffos y Fran but that the authority is in talks with Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd and that current discussions indicate a planning application for a revised restoration plan will be submitted to Merthyr Tydfil CBC in early 2024.
Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd, the company that runs the site, said: “Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd continues hold constructive dialogue with Merthyr Tydfil Borough Council and other relevant stake holders on the revised restoration plan and there will be no further comment until the plan is finalised and approved by the relevant parties.”
But Chris and Alyson Austin who live near Ffos y Fran have made an urgent appeal to Merthyr Tydfil Council and Welsh Government to ensure the owner restores the site, and make it safe, for the local community, according to Friends of the Earth Cymru.
Merthyr (South Wales) Limited, the owner of Ffos y Fran announced that they intend to stop mining on November 30, 2023, but campaigners are concerned that even if the company does stop extracting coal, they will leave without restoring the site, as promised.
Mr and Mrs Austin from Merthyr Friends of the Earth, who live close to the mine, have been campaigning to stop it for the last two decades.
Alyson Austin said: “We don’t want them to just leave. We want them to restore the site. The company was given permission to mine here on the condition that the site was fully restored afterwards and handed back to the community.
“The sign at the entrance says ‘Ffos y Fran Land Reclamation Scheme.’ The ‘reclamation’ promised meant returning the land to a better, usable state, not leaving us with a huge, horrible mess. It must be restored, otherwise it will be an ugly, dangerous place, rather than an amenity we can enjoy.”
Chris Austin, Alyson’s husband, added: “It makes my blood boil. We’re told the company can’t afford to restore the site, that over the years they’ve failed to put money aside for this, as they were contractually obligated to do. They have made huge amounts of money over the years from the coal mining; where has it all gone?
“What message does this send out? That you can do business, make money, and not honour your obligations to the detriment of local people. That you can continue to work against the direct instructions of the local authority and our elected representatives with seeming impunity? It sets a terrible precedent.
“We can’t allow them to get away with this. It is not just about the impact on our community here, but on other communities in the future.”
Haf Elgar, director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, agreed: “It’s disgraceful that coal mining has been allowed to continue unlawfully at Ffos y Fran for so long, against the wishes of the local community, the unanimous vote of councillors, and to the detriment of the planet.
“We hope that the mining will now stop and that will be the end of opencast mining in Wales. But this does not feel like a day to celebrate – workers are being made redundant rather than kept on to restore the site and supported to find other roles, and the whole process has been such a farce that there is no certainty what will happen next.
“The company must fully restore the site – and Merthyr Council and the Welsh Government have to ensure that this happens, for the sake of the local community and to restore faith in the planning system.”
Friends of the Earth Cymru highlighted an observation by Coal Action Network which said “we’ve been here before. 10 years ago, Celtic Energy Limited abandoned four coal mines. Budget restorations continue to be public eyesores and safety hazards.”
Ffos y Fran is the largest opencast in the UK and planning permission to extract coal from the site expired in September 2022 but then the company applied to Merthyr Tydfil Council to extend this permission, and continued to mine coal, without permission, whilst awaiting the outcome.
In April, the council’s planning committee rejected their application to continue mining but campaigners said that truckloads and train loads of coal were still seen leaving the site on a regular basis.
In May 2023, Merthyr Tydfil Council issued an enforcement notice but campaigners claim operations continued and then the company launched an appeal with Welsh Government against Merthyr Tydfil Council’s enforcement order.
The Coal Authority also wrote to the company in July, because they were mining coal beyond their licensed boundary, ordering them to stop all extraction of coal outside of the licence area with immediate effect and inform the authority that this has taken place.
Merthyr (South Wales) Limited announced in August that they would stop mining on 30 November and close the site.
A Merthyr Tydfil Council statement said: “The matter is subject to legal proceedings however the developer is in discussion with the council’s planning department to develop a revised restoration plan. These negotiations have been ongoing for over a year and are expected to continue over the next few months.
“Current discussions indicate that a planning application for a revised restoration plan will be submitted to Merthyr Tydfil CBC in early 2024. In the meantime, the developer is responsible for the safety of the site.
 “The assertion by the Coal Authority that the council has ‘made very little progress’ in preparing for the closure of the mine is simply incorrect.
 “The 2007 Restoration Strategy that was the foundation for the amended permission granted in 2011 requires various schemes and plans to be submitted to, and approved by, the council. There is already a restoration plan agreed in 2016 in relation to phase one of the development.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Welsh ministers cannot comment on individual cases as the Welsh Government has a formal role in determining planning enforcement appeals.” ‌​‌​‌​​​‍‌​‌​​‌‌‌‍‌​‌‌​​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌‌​​



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