Loose Anti Open Cast Network press release, 5 December 2012
The Loose Anti Opencast Network is broadly in favour of the intention of the Energy Bill to reduce the reliance on coal in the UK‘s energy mix, as this will reduce the need for new surface mine sites in the UK. However it leaves local communities across the UK living on or near to shallow coalfields uncertain about how soon these reforms will result in reducing the risk of opencast mining in their area.
Despite the proposed legislation reducing the demand for coal, developers are proposing to operate at least 23 new surface mines across Britain over the next few years. Some of these proposals are for large, new opencast mines that will have a life span of 12 to 15 years – well into an era when the demand for coal will have fallen by 90 to 95%. Cauldhall, a new proposal  announced by Scottish Coal near Rosewell in Midlothian in Scotland, is for a 10m tonne site covering 495 hectares, to be worked over a twelve and a half year period. Wales too has its monster-mine proposal for the Nant Llesg site near Rhymney in Gwent. Here Miller Argent plans to remove up to 9m tonnes of coal from a 1,200 hectare site over a 15 year period.  These are the two largest opencast mine proposals at present, LAON know of 13 other proposals for England, 2 in Scotland and 5 in Wales.
A recent press release from Business Green suggests that the provisions in the new Energy Bill announced on the 29th November, which will restrict all new generating plants using fossil fuels to a maximum CO2 cap of 450gms per kilowatt hour (KWH) is the ‘death knell for king coal’.  In addition to this, existing coal plants will have to conform to lower emission standards under the new European Integrated Pollution Control Directive for nitrous oxide, sulphur dioxide and dust, which will mean having to make a decision, by the end of next year, to fit expensive new equipment, convert to biomass or be decommissioned by 2023. To nudge the owners of power stations to make the right decision, the Government is introducing its Carbon Tax next year and a new subsidy system which rewards decisions to fully convert existing power stations to biomass rather than encourage ‘new build’ biomass power stations.
A recent calculation undertaken by the Department of Energy and Climate Change indicates that these changes will reduce demand for coal to insignificant levels, from the present 40.51mt in 2011, to 28.41mt in 2016 (a fall of 30%), to 9.68mt in 2021 (a fall of 77%)  to 4.06mt in 2026 (a fall of 90%) and 1.96mt in 2030 (a fall of 95% on the 2011 figure).
If permission was granted in 2014 for the Nant Llesg site, by the time the last tonne of coal was dug out, national demand would just be about 1.38mt  tonnes in 2029 and for Caudhall a little higher at 4.06mt tonnes in 2026.
If the demand for coal falls to these levels, will it have been appropriate to have given permission, back in 2014, to have exploited these surface mine sites, especially if, all or part of the site, is a green field site?
LAON hope that the future Parliamentary Debates on this Bill will include discussions about the impact this Bill will have on the Coal Industry, especially the surface mine coal industry and the demand for coal.
In our view, there must come a time when it is no longer thought necessary to allow green field land, in any part of the UK, to be sacrificed on the altar of ‘the national need for coal’ if the country loses its capacity to burn coal.
Communities across Britain, who live on or near the UK’s shallow coalfields in England, Scotland and Wales, will benefit from finding out when coal will lose its priority status in the planning systems of England, Scotland and Wales. We hope that a policy statement confirming the rate at which the use of coal for power generation purposes declines, assuming that there is no viable Carbon Capture and Storage system, will be forthcoming as the Energy Bill makes its way through Parliament.
A referenced version of this press release is available from Infoatlaon@yahoo.com
About LAON
The Loose Anti-Opencast Network (LAON) has been in existence since 2009. It functions as a medium through which to oppose open cast mine applications. At present LAON links individuals and groups in N Ireland (Just Say No to Lignite), Scotland (Coal Action Scotland), Wales (Green Valleys Alliance, The Merthyr Tydfil Anti Opencast Campaign), England, (Coal Action Network), Northumberland, (Whittonstall Action Group, Halton Lea Gate (North Pennine Protection Group )) Co Durham (Pont Valley Network), Leeds, Sheffield (Cowley Residents Action Group), Kirklees, (Skelmansthorpe Action Group)  Nottinghamshire (Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition), Derbyshire (West Hallum Environment Group, Smalley Action Group and Hilltop Action Group) , Leicestershire (Minorca Opencast Protest Group), Wakefield (Stop Opencast in Sharlston) and Walsall (Alumwell Action Group).
Contacting LAON
Steve Leary LAON’Ss Co-ordinator, at infoatlaon@yahoo.com
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