On Sunday night twenty five activists occupied the site of the Blair House Open Cast Coal Site in solidarity with near-by communities and in direct intervention of the environmental destruction that it will cause. Contractors have been felling trees on the site over the past week, and activists have moved in to stop this work and put an end to UK Coal's plans for mining the Black Wood Wildlife site.
This occupation is the second occupation of a UK Coal site in two weeks. The Defend Huntington Lane camp in Shropshire has been stopping work and felling for nearly two weeks now . This occupation comes two months after the eviction of the Mainshill Solidarity Camp in South Lanarkshire, where 45 arrests were made in an eviction that lasted 5 days .
UK Coal have been given permission by Fife Council to mine 720,000 tonnes of coal from the site, a decision that disregarded the wishes of local residents. Nearly 150 people objected to the planning application for this site and there were no letters of support. The Council, in their defence, wouldn't dare refuse another open cast coal mine application after their refusal of ATH Resources mine at Muir Dean on the insistence of Crossgates residents, was overturned by the government and cost them financially.
The planning process was designed to slip the mine past the majority of people living near it. As an example, the neighbour notification for the mine only included residents living within 90 metres of the site boundary, which only really involved notifying a few Oakley residents living opposite the site entrance.
Impacts on nearby communities will include noise, dust, HGV movements, impact on the landscape, ecology, and loss of recreation access. The Solidarity Camp stands in support of nearby residents opposing this mine and the inevitable other mines that will be applied for by profit-hungry UK Coal.
The site is ecologically diverse and home to a population of Great Crested Newts, a European Protected Specie, the Black Wood Wildlife site, designated as an area that once had ancient woodland and is now home to birch forests and oak trees, orchids, breeding birds and wintering birds, bats, red squirrels and Brown hares, listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Cowstrandburn river will be diverted and undoubtedly polluted, along with other watercourses in the area.
Some 2.11 million tonnes of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere from the combustion of the coal, with more still being released from the mining process. None of this will be captured and stored. New coal mines such as this one undermine the governments plans to reduce Scotland's CO2 emissions and highlight the hypocrisy of government ministers and local councils when it comes to reducing emissions.
Fiona Richards, one of the people currently occupying the site said, “This new coal mine is only one of 20 such others to have recently been given planning permission in Scotland. If we are to have any chance of limiting dangerous climate change and protecting communities from carbon-intensive industries, direct action must be taken as councillors, mining companies and the government have shown their unwillingness to solve the problems we face.”
 http://defendhuntingtonlane.wordpress.com/  http://mainshill.noflag.org.uk/
Minorca Opencast Protest Group media release:
A SPATE OF BAD NEWS STORIES HITS UK COAL plc
Since the news was announced on March 10th that Hargreaves Services was in talks with UK Coal plc about a possible merger of each company’s deep mine interests, it seems that UK Coal plc has been the subject of a number of bad news stories covering four different locations in England and one in Scotland.
The announcement of Hargreaves interest in UK Coal plc coincided with the publication of an independent report “UK Coal plc: An Alternative Report” (1) on UK Coal plc, published by the Minorca Opencast Protest Group (MOPG). The group are opposing an application made by UK Coal plc for an opencast mine on the Minorca Colliery site in Leicestershire. Their report detailed recent losses the company had accumulated on its coal operations, was critical of how it used the term ‘brownfield’ land to suggest it could enhance the value of its land bank and drew attention to how the company provoked local controversies when it sought to develop the value of its land bank. This part of the report drew on three case studies which included the Cutacre site in Bolton and the Lounge site in Leicestershire.
Subsequently, and this may just be a coincidence, the Leicester Mercury on 23rd March carried a news story entitled “Mining company could face court over restoring Leicestershire land” (2) which reported that Leicestershire County Council had decide on giving UK Coal plc three months to resolve the problems to do with the Lounge site before seeking a court order which would force the company into restoring the site.
It will be the same Council who will decide on UK Coal plc’s application to operate an opencast mine on the Minorca site, itself the subject of some controversy due to the time taken by UK Coal plc to complete its planning application. This application is due to be determined on May 20th.
On Wednesday March 24th The Bolton News published “Cutacre acts as a warning to all” (3). This story, on MOPG’s report, highlights how other communities faced by the prospect of opencast mining and could face a ‘Cut acre Experience’, where the promise of restoration of the site to agriculture use and a country park is replaced, all of a sudden, by the prospect of an enlarged industrial estate. According to the news report, Stuart Oliver, UK Coal’s Media Spokesperson is reported as condemning the MOPG report, calling it a “hotchpotch of half-truths, lies and make believe” although he was unable to pinpoint any specific inaccuracies.
At the same time UK Coal plc faces problems on two sites for opencast coal where it has recently won planning permission. These sites, Huntington Lane in Telford and Wrekin and Blair House in Fife, Scotland have now both been occupied by anti coal protestors according to recent reports. A story in The Shropshire Star “Protestors dig in over mining plans” (4) occupation of the Huntington Lane site began over the weekend of 20/21st of March. Later the BBC reported in its news story “Campaigners protest at Fife Mine Site” (5) on 22/3/10 that the Blair House site was also being occupied.
1) “UK Coal plc: An Alternative Report”, Stephen Leary, Minorca Opencast Protest Group, March 2010. See:
2) “Mining company could face court over restoring Leicestershire land”, The Leicester Mercury, 23/3/10. See
3) “Cutacre act as a warning to all”, The Bolton News, 24/3/10. See:
4) “Protestors dig in over mining plans”, Shropshire Star, 22/3/10. See:
5) “Campaigners protest at Fife Mine Site”, BBC News (Scotland), 22/3/10. See: