London Indymedia

Does the UK Need nealy 50 New Opencast Mines?

Steve Leary | 05.02.2013 09:58 | Climate Chaos | Energy Crisis | Social Struggles | London | Wales

The 20th LAON press release highlights a recent estimate that 47 new sites for opencast or the surface mining of coal are in the planning pipeline, 15 in England, 25 in Scotland and 7 in Wales. At the same time UK Coal Mining acknowledges that the demand for coal is going to drop significantly - hence the title of the press release



Today, the Loose Anti Opencast Network publishes its monthly review of potential and actual applications for new opencast or surface mine sites across the UK. It reveals that there are plans for 47 new opencast sites, 15 in England, 7 in Wales and a staggering 25 in Scotland. The figure for Scotland has been boosted from the 7 identified in the last review to 25, because of the research conducted by Rob Edwards on new Scottish opencast applications published on his blog. The full list of opencast sites for January 2013 is available here :

The big irony in this is the fact that at least one opencast coal miner, UK Surface Mining, is waking up to the fact that the demand for coal for power generation purposes is going to significantly decline in the near future, with six coal fired power stations that were in operation in 2011 closing by 2016, with 5 of the remaining fully or partly converting to biomass and only one of the remaining power stations, Fiddlers Ferry ready to meet new emissions standards that are mandatory from 2022.

In light of this evidence about the decline in demand, Simon Taylor, Director of UK Coal Surface Mining, in an interview given to the North West Evening Mail, acknowledged that the demand for coal was going to decline. However, he argued
““Strictly speaking, probably about 30 per cent to 40 per cent of electricity comes from coal, which most people don't realise. Eighty-percent of that is imported.
“Even if the Government wants to pay through legislation for greener energy and is funding finances for nuclear, by early 2020 output from coal will still be 50-60 per cent what it is now.”

He believes it is vital as much of that demand as possible is met by indigenous supplies which lie a few metres below the surface over large areas of the North-East and Yorkshire.

Renewables only contribute nine per cent of our electricity needs.”

It is against the backdrop of the performance of renewables and our reliance on imported coal that UK Coal wants to push ahead with its Whittonstall investment.”
In making his arguments, he hoped to persuade local people living close to the proposed Hoodsclose opencast site to back UK Surface Mining’s planning application prior to a public meeting held to discuss the application held on 17/1/13. However his arguments seem to have been rejected by local people judging from reports of the meeting. Even the local school, which was in line to benefit from the proposal by having UK Surface Mining build a £850,000 annex, has now formally objected to the scheme.

We can argue over the detail in Simon Taylor’s statement, since there is other evidence that this is an overestimate. There are other figures that suggest that by 2020, the demand for coal will be, at 13.32m tonnes, only 33% of the 40.57m tonnes used in 2011, a much steeper decline than Mr Taylor suggests. In addition, if by then Fiddlers Ferry is the only remaining coal fired power station left, the most coal it can burn (and this is unlikely as it would mean working at 100% efficiency for 365 days) would be 7.0m tonnes.

Steve Leary, for the Loose Anti Opencast Network said

“The statement from Simon Taylor is significant. For the first time, a coal operator has acknowledged that in future, the demand for coal is going to drop significantly. Hitherto, the strongest argument applicants for new opencast mines could apply to overcome local objections based on loss of amenity, was that there was a national need for the coal. To back it up, they would cite the appropriate statement from a Government White Paper or a Ministerial Statement in support of the need to mine indigenous coal. A typical example was the recent decision made after a Public Inquiry over the Haltom Lea Gate application.

Now however, we have seen, that with this acknowledgement from Simon Taylor, in the future this will be an argument that will grow weaker in time as more and more coal fired power stations shut down or convert to burning biomass. It is the first chink in the armour of the arguments that have been used up to now to justify new opencast mines.

What we need now is some clarification from the Government about the expected role coal is to play in the short to medium term. In addition, we would like the statement to say at what declining level of the demand for coal, the loss of amenity arguments begin to outweigh the national need arguments for coal. If coal is to decline in significance as a source of energy for power generation purposes, which is the intention at the heart of the Energy Bill, then coal’s classification in the National Planning Policy Framework as being a mineral of national importance needs to be revised as well.”

A referenced copy of this press release is available from

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), (Saline Parish Hub), Wales (Green Valleys Alliance, The Merthyr Tydfil Anti Opencast Campaign), England, (Coal Action Network), Northumberland, (Whittonstall Action Group, Halton Lea Gate Residents)) Co Durham (Pont Valley Network) (Pittington Residents Group), Yorkshire (Leeds), (Cowley Residents Action Group, Sheffield)), (Skelmansthorpe Action Group, Kirklees), (Stop Opencast at Sharlston, Wakefield), Nottinghamshire (Shortwood Farm Opencast Opposition), Derbyshire (West Hallum Environment Group, Smalley Action Group and Hilltop Action Group) , Leicestershire (Minorca Opencast Protest Group) and Walsall (Alumwell Action Group) Staffordshire (Campaign Against Great Oak Opencast) .

Contacting LAON

Steve Leary LAON’Ss Co-ordinator, at

You can now follow LAON on Twitter @

Steve Leary
- e-mail:


Hide the following 6 comments

Need ?

05.02.2013 15:06

I guess that depends on much energy the country will be consuming over the next few years.

The big advantage for the UK is that we have a lot of coal and open cast is a low cost way to get at it therefore if we need to burn coal and we need to get it the most cost effective way then a simple mathematical calculation can be done to discover how many mines we need.

Logical thinker


05.02.2013 19:23

I doubt the shareholder's would agree to building 40+ mines if there wasn't a market for the coal. Why invest in something if you think demand is going to drop?

I doubt the statement about demand dropping is true. I've done a quick search on UK Coal and they seem to say the opposite.


To Dave and Logical Thinker

06.02.2013 21:53

Perhaps you should see my previous press release on a 2013 being a Crunch Year for Coal (PR 19) on the London Mining Network site. It will also allow you to check out the references used for both press releases.See

Steve Leary

Re-tool the entire industrial revolution to the renewables.

07.02.2013 11:09

Coal, gas, oil, and atomic energy is destroying the planets livability and therefore the last fifty-one years of eclogical green revolution has brought into being the hi and low tech tools to put in place wind, tidal, and solar power that transforms to electricity and is more power than can be used by all societies and countries on the planet. No more blackouts. This non-pollution solution is given freely in natures kinder laws and provides work for all and forever more.

So the answer is not another step back to the dirtiest carbon bomb on the planet--coal. Leave the coal in the ground ends blacklung, and early death to the miners and the Planet. The recent figures on the burn-out of oxygen by the fossil fuels is that 38% of the oxygen is already gone and we cannot live on the carbon-dioxide replacement.

The Alberta Tar Sands Canadian XL pipeline is proceeding with dire consequences to the air, land, and water by toxic waste pollution. More than that it will be the hugest carbon bomb on the planet if the full exploitation is allowed to proceed.

Already the tar sands project is burning out the oxygen faster than mother nature can replace it. That is a first time in millions of years that the oxygen is really disappearing from the atmosphere, and the tar sands project will definitely speed up the process of the extinguishing of the rest of the O2.

Again we can see this is the 'fail-safe mode' for the entire planets atmosphere. No oxygen or O2 and all air breathing animals will be asphyxiated. That is the meaning of the 'REAL NEED TO END FOSSIL FUEL BURN-OUT TO CARBON-DIOXIDE. Solar panels on all roof tops, wind power, and tidal power, can end 97% of the cabon-dioxide cascading into the air, and the threat of the extinguishment of our natural clean oxygen supply.

Viva socialist liberation. End pollution wars, not endless wars for more and more pollution. Ye yet have a world to win!!

Unity Jack

What a load of bollocks

12.02.2013 16:33

"Already the tar sands project is burning out the oxygen faster than mother nature can replace it. That is a first time in millions of years that the oxygen is really disappearing from the atmosphere, and the tar sands project will definitely speed up the process of the extinguishing of the rest of the O2. "

What a load of complete bollocks. No wonder the percentage of the public who still think that mankind driven climate change is real has fallen to less than 22% with Disneyland science like that above.

Thanks for that

Title: The dawn of a new age, evidence of breakthrough energy technology

25.02.2013 12:00

Dr Judy Wood speaking at the Energy Breakthrough Movement Conference. The solution is before our eyes, we simply have to open them.

keith mann
mail e-mail:
- Homepage:


South Coast

Other UK IMCs
Bristol/South West
Northern Indymedia

London Topics

Animal Liberation
Climate Chaos
Energy Crisis
Free Spaces
Ocean Defence
Other Press
Public sector cuts
Social Struggles
Terror War
Workers' Movements

London IMC


About | Contact
Mission Statement
Editorial Guidelines
Publish | Help

Search :