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As if the dozens of new open cast coal mines in Scotland weren’t enough to ensure a fiery future for our dying planet, attention has now turned to deep mining once again, which hasn’t happened in Scotland since the last deep mine closed in 2002.

Don Nicolson, new chief executive of the Scottish Resources Group (which owns Scottish Coal, the UK´s largest coal producer [1]) announced that there are “perhaps billions of tonnes of coal” in Scotland that can only be accessed by deep mining. He claims that a return to deep mining in Scotland is essential if the Scottish Government is to follow through on its commitment to new coal-fired power stations.

Nicolson said: “There are millions of tonnes, perhaps billions of tonnes of coal in Scotland. A small fraction you can get at through surface mining. If coal is to become part of our long-term future, which we think it will, then you need to go deep. That is where the bulk of the coal reserves are.”

But scratch beneath the surface, and what you find beneath the rhetoric of green energy policy and clean coal technology (see our previous article SNP’s suicidal energy policy slammed by leading climate scientist James Hansen for why carbon capture and storage is a myth) is an industry and government pent on the destruction of the Earth’s ecosystems in pursuit of corporate profit.

In response to questions about a new deep mine in Canonbie, Dumfriesshire from which 400 million tonnes of coal could be extracted Nicolson said: “There are very high costs to set up… You need two things for this to happen. One, you need government’s long-term commitment to coal because it will take a long time to get the coal out to get your money back. The second thing is commodity prices need to be high for a long period.”

The commitment from government is there as Alex Salmond gave his “declaration of faith in coal as one of Scotland’s key indigenous fuels” last year, asserting that “coal is a fuel of the future and not the past.” Financially, Nicolson expects coal prices to be lucrative in the future, rebounding from the current low to the $60 to $80 per tonne levels previously enjoyed by the industry.

So what’s stopping them from burning this coal? Climate experts like James Hansen calling for a moratorium on coal fired-power stations? A Scottish Climate Change bill calling for 80% reductions by 2050 when emissions from coal burning and aviation amongst others are rapidly rising? Or maybe the number of objections to the National Planning Framework that will enshrine new coal-fired power stations and runways at airports?

We suggest that the time for green policy in parliament and writing letters to our leaders has long since passed. It’s time for a more direct approach. Actions such as the occupation of Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station and the autonomous switching off of one of Kingsnorth power station’s turbines will reduce emissions far faster than Alex Salmond or Don Nicolson will. We don’t need more energy, we need to reduce our consumption, and we need to reduce our carbon emissions now.

[1] As well as the Castlebridge Plant, Europe’s largest earth-moving fleet and SRG Estates, one of Scotland’s largest land owners.


The Scotsman: Coal chief calls for return to deep mining to fuel power-station pledge. By Erikka Askeland and Jane Bradley 02 February 2009

2 Responses to “Burning our future with ‘billions of tonnes of coal’”

  1. 1 fairy

    It’s so ridiculous and manipulative the way that ‘coal as a fuel of the future’ has started to seep into being an acceptable thing to say. The movement against coal has done a lot to raise awareness about the effects of burning coal but i worry that too many of us remain hopeful that the NGOs and even the governments are on top of this issue. They are not. We have really got to take this on and not allow ourselves to be duped by false promises – we don’t have time to dilly-dally about Carbon Capture and Storage or even to spend time pressuring the government about climate change. They will never prioritise what it is neccesary to prioritise. We need to match the amount of talk that there has been on coal with some serious action.

  2. 2 Mandy

    Yes, this is a bit of a nightmare! I don’t know what’s going on in Scotland at the moment but we all have to do what we can. All approaches are valid. Scotland Against New Coal (SANC) met with Scottish Power the day after the Ravenstruther action. There was little communication between the 2 groups then and we didn’t know about the action until it was on the news but it was so great to be able to refer to it the next day. It looked like coordinated and diverse opposition!

    We have to be united and have respect and understanding for each other. We are all freaked out by the stubborn refusal of the mainstream to grasp the problem but we must just keep on doing what we feel compelled to do.

    I totally agree with Fairy’s point about CCS (see Carbon Capture Myth in but large NGOs find it impossible to speak out against capitalism. After all, that’s really at the root of the problem and things will change. Anyway, keep it up – all of us!


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