The Scottish Green Party has warned that Scotland faces an imminent threat of another wave of abandoned opencast coal mines unless urgent action is taken to prevent a repeat of the crisis of 2013.

Scotland’s main opencast operator Hargreaves announced last month that it is closing all but one of its sites in Scotland this year and slashing production levels.  Sites in Fife and Dumfries & Galloway have already stopped working, placing question marks on their restoration.  Coal use in power stations has slumped, with coal supplying a record low of only 1.5% of National Grid electricity demand on 26th March.  The rate of extraction of coal in East Ayrshire is now less than a tenth of what it was a year ago and twenty times less than it was before Scottish Coal and ATH went bust in 2013.

But planning authorities continue to give permission for new opencast sites, even when there is already enough coal in consented sites to last for decades and no plan is in place for funding the restoration of the site.  At Duncanziemere in Ayrshire and Glentaggart East in Lanarkshire, extensions to opencast mines are being proposed even when the conveyor belts and railheads that would transport the coal have been demolished.  At the sole remaining active site in Ayrshire, House of Water, the Council has approved an extension of operations for four years without any financial guarantee to restore the site.

Meanwhile, there is still no clear solution for abandoned opencast sites.  Flooded voids pose a risk to nearby villages, and years of finger-pointing between the Scottish and UK governments have done nothing to generate the funds required to achieve proper restoration.

Scottish Greens Infrastructure and Investment spokesperson Sarah Beattie-Smith said

"We need to get off the treadmill of mythical coal jobs. Coal's in terminal decline and we don't need any more mines. We should be employing people getting all the abandoned opencast sites properly restored, and developing clean energy."

“The Scottish Government and local authorities wasted more than a year pursuing an unworkable proposal for a tax exemption to the coal industry to fund restoration.  Now they need to collaborate to source all available funds, including from the industry, before the devastation becomes a permanent feature of the South of Scotland landscape.”

With further contraction of the industry, there will be even less funds available for restoration so we need co-operative action NOW to commit funds to restoring sites. The Scottish Green Party calls on planning authorities to say no to operators' ongoing attempts to scale down restoration plans and urges the Scottish Government to engage with opencast communities to work towards securing jobs for future generations.  It is only through proper restoration that creation of sustainable clean, green jobs is possible.


Opencast Meetings:

The Scottish Green Party’s Ayrshire Branch is hosting a public meeting on Thursday 7th April at 7pm in the Band Hall Dalmellington to discuss local concerns around opencast sites. All welcome.

Sign our petition against new opencast developments >>HERE<<