Opencast Coal Mining in UK Abolished after 80 Years
Desmog reported that last December, a cross-party council planning committee unanimously rejected what could very well be the last opencast coal application in the UK, proposed at Dewley Hill, an area of greenbelt outside Newcastle. The developer has just declared it will not be appealing the decision, while its latest financial statement indicates the company, Banks Group, does not expect to get permission for any new mines, because of a lack of political will.
So after 80 years, it is an end to the ecologically ruinous method of opencast coal extraction. The mining technique was originally introduced in the 1940s as an extreme wartime measure, with minimal labour needed and maximum pace. It involves ripping up huge areas of land, replacing diverse ecology and vital habitats with a vast pit, and industrialising the countryside. It expanded under Margaret Thatcher, and some of the first people to contest new opencasts were coal miners, since it was seen to hasten job losses at traditional pit mines and ruined the places miners lived in.
Over the past 20 years, as awareness of climate change has grown and word of the local injustices from opencast coal mining spread, thousands of people across the country and beyond have travelled to support the battles to stop opencast coal. These campaigns had been quietly fought for decades, in isolated pockets in the Welsh Valleys, the Pennines, the Scottish Highlands, by people who don’t identify as activists.
Since 2008, at least 23 applications to stop opencast coal in the UK have been stopped by grassroots campaigns, with many more going unrecorded. Currently, only two opencast mines operate in the UK thanks to the resistance of ordinary people standing up for their local environment and climate justice.