UK: Open Cast Coal Mine Faces Closure and 150 Jobs Being Lost After Welsh Government Refuses License on Climate Change Grounds
June 12, 2020 - A coal mine is facing closure and 150 jobs under threat after it was refused a licence due to "climate change impacts".
Mine operators Celtic Energy is "shocked" by the decision to block work at the 850-acre Nant Helen site in the Dulais Valley in South Wales after the Welsh Government refused to allow the opencast mine to continue digging for coal.
Ministers in Cardiff Bay insist continuing to dig for coal from the site would have "environmental and climate change impacts".
The Nant Helen Open Cast site from above
The opencast mine at Coelbren, Powys, was granted a new licence by the Coal Authority from next year - but it is only valid if it has the approval of the Welsh Government.
Environment Minister Lesley Griffiths blocked the licence for mining operations at Nant Helen.
It is one of a set of powers over fossil fuels in Wales that came into force in April 2018.
The Welsh Government had already said it would refuse coal applications under its powers - although this is the first time it has refused to authorize a Coal Authority license for commercial coal mining.
A Welsh Government spokeswoman said it is "proactively supporting a constructive transition away from coal extraction and use, ensuring areas where coal is currently being extracted are restored to a high standard.
She added: "Continuing coal extraction from Nant Helen would have inevitable environmental and climate change impacts.
"Refusing to authorize the licence extension ensures the coal remains in the ground and it will not contribute to global climate change, which is in the best interest of the people of Wales."
Photo: Andrew Forgrave
The Welsh Government has already pledged drastic changes to the country by 2050 and has declared a climate emergency.
And a five-year blueprint to tackle climate change in Wales was launched by the Welsh Government.
Prosperity for All: A Climate Conscious Wales sets out plans to improve flood defences, secure water supplies, and other environmental improvements.
The spokeswoman added that Griffiths would like the Coal Authority to "develop a solution" that would give "prompt effect to her decision" - ending extraction of coal in a way which "minimises environmental impacts".
Nant Helen was mothballed in October 2016 before re-opening in January 2019 to take coal from the large opencast site.
The mine produces high quality anthracite coals from up to thirteen individual coal seams lying up to one hundred and fifty metres below the surface.
Paul Frammingham, Chief Finance and Information Officer at the Coal Authority, said: "We are working with the operator, Powys and Neath Port Talbot County Councils and Natural Resources Wales to agree a plan."
Will Watson, Chief Executive Officer of Celtic Energy, said: "We were shocked to receive a letter from the Coal Authority advising us of the minister's decision to refuse authorization for an extension of the coaling license at Nant Helen.
"We are now working with the Coal Authority and local authorities to consider options, in light of the minister's decision, for a way forward which minimises the environmental impacts and delivers the best long term outcome for the site, surrounding communities, our employees and Wales as a whole."
The Nant Helen opencast mine, along with the coal washery next door at Onllwyn, is the preferred site for a £100m train testing site announced by the Welsh Government in 2018.