Today, a letter signed by over 30 Welsh NGOs and businesses is to be delivered to Welsh Minister Julie James and Deputy Minister Lee Waters, demanding they draw a line in the sand and announce ban on any further coal mines on Welsh soil.
The Welsh Government already has policies against new and extended coal mines but these are caveated and confusing.
The renewed call for a clear coal mining ban comes less than a month after existing policies would have failed to stop a recent bid to reopen the shuttered Glan Lash opencast coal mine in Carmarthenshire.
The coal mining company, Bryn Bach Coal Ltd, applied to double the size of the coal mine over six years. Controversially, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Planning Officer advised Councillors in the Officer’s Report, and at the Planning Hearing, that “overall, it is considered that the proposals would largely meet the criteria of the coal policy” (p66).
Ultimately, the application was rejected on the grounds of local ecological impacts . Around 50 local people and campaigners, who had gathered on the steps of the Carmarthenshire County Hall ahead of the planning meeting to oppose the mine, celebrated the decision. But the debate has exposed the weakness of existing policies, with the Planning Officer adding that it is “difficult to know for certain how to interpret the coal policy” (p66).
The open letter coincides with the first anniversary of Scotland’s announcement of its own de facto ban on coal mining.
Daniel Therkelsen, campaigner at Coal Action Network says: “The Welsh Government faces a choice - align itself with the backtracking and flip-flopping of the UK Government, or regain its international leadership position alongside Scotland, as a progressive country of confidence and stability for green industry to thrive.
Minister Julie James recognises that resources are being wasted. The Welsh Minister for Climate Change wrote a letter to the UK Government in October 2021, lamenting the current policy situation, which “results in both the developer and the Coal Authority committing significant resources respectively to preparing and determining applications”.
NGOs and businesses that signed the open letter to Ministers Julie James and Deputy Minister Lee Waters are calling for a clear coal ban that clears up the confusion Carmarthenshire Council identified.
Daniel Therkelsen, Campaigner, Coal Action Network said: “The Welsh Government has said their position is ‘clear’, that ‘they want to bring a managed end to the extraction and use of coal’—but their jigsaw of policies on coal is as clear as the coal dust that continues to plague communities living around mines in South Wales. Draw a line in the sand - ban new coal mines and extensions. Nothing about a ban would prevent access by the Coal Authority to address safety issues”.
Sam Ward, Head of Climate Cymru added: “We need to see a Wales free from fossil fuels, and that is why we support banning coal mining on Welsh soil. Land previously used for mining must be restored, and communities must be part of the discussion as to how this is carried out.
“We need clarity from the Welsh Government that coal will be kept in the ground, and adopt a de facto ban as in Scotland so that there is no ambiguity. We must ensure that we focus on developing new technologies for the future, generated from homegrown renewables, creating long-term and secure jobs for the people of Wales.”