Campaigners demanding full restoration of Margam open cast mine are hopeful the UK Government will look into their case.
Mining ceased on the site in 2008, but restoration of the land has not taken place despite it being a condition of the original planning permission. Celtic Energy, who hold the mining license, and Oak Regeneration, who own the mine, are responsible for the restoration, but have said they are unable to fund the scheme, estimated to cost £40-50 million.
Jeremy Cousins, Head of the Coal Liabilities Unit at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, visited the site in November and met with campaigners.
The meeting followed an October decision by Neath Port Talbot Council’s planning committee to work with Oak Regeneration and Celtic Energy on a £5 million ‘alternative restoration’ scheme. Celtic Energy submitted a screening and scoping report to the Council in November as part of this process.
Neath Port Talbot’s head of planning Nicola Pearce said she hoped the alternative scheme would deal with safety concerns regarding the large void that was left when open cast mining stopped in 2008.
The void has since filled with water, and there are now fears it could flood homes in the valley below, that loose material could slump into the void causing a flood, or that the weight of water could cause the ridge to collapse. The possibility of such an outcome was likened to the Aberfan disaster of 1966, when a colliery tip collapsed onto a school, causing the deaths of 116 children and 28 adults.
Jan Adamson is a member of PACT, the group formed by local residents to campaign against open cast mining on the site. She attended the meeting with a panel of local and government experts, and said she is now “hopeful of some movement”.
“The meeting was for the government to see what would be the least restoration acceptable to the local communities. The consent for Park Slip West was granted by the Secretary of State in 1993 following a public inquiry because Mid Glamorgan County Council had refused it. As far as we are concerned, because of this, Westminster should take responsibility.”
She added: “Mr Cousins and the panel had previously met with Celtic Energy and were going to meet with the local authorities after meeting with us. They told us they would then discuss the matter and it is hoped that within the next month some decisions might be made.”
However, a DECC spokesperson told the Magnet: “The restoration of former open cast mine sites is a matter for the owners and local planning authorities. The Government and the Coal Authority are providing expert advice to local authorities and continue to engage with them on these matters.”