Controversial plans have been drawn up to dig opencast mines on the edge of Wearside in northern England. A major mining firm has identified two green-belt areas either side of Pittington, on the Sunderland-County Durham border, as “strategic coal sites” with some 3.3million tonnes of economically extractable reserves. The biggest, with an estimated 2.5million tonnes available, is to the east of West Rainton and across towards High Moorsley. While they could create jobs and cut the need to import coal, critics claim having two new opencast pits would be a blot on the landscape and blight the lives of people living nearby. Opposition to any such developments is expected to be fierce.