OPENCAST MINE CLEAN-UP COST ESTIMATES DOUBLE: “GOVERNMENT MUST ACT” SAYS COMMUNITY GROUP
Communities affected by opencast mines have called on the government to act after it was revealed that the shortfall in funds for cleaning up abandoned mines in East Ayrshire has more than doubled.
A report prepared for East Ayrshire Council  and due to be considered by councillors on Thursday says the clean-up of opencast coal mines in the county will cost £161m, but only £28m are available in restoration bonds – a shortfall of £133m. A previous council report in May put the shortfall at £62m – a figure based on estimates provided by KPMG, the liquidators of opencast operators Scottish Coal and ATH.
Malcolm Spaven, Chairperson of the Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance (SOCA) said: “This latest revelation about the costs of cleaning up the legacy of opencast mining shows that we have a national crisis. We must stop allowing private mining companies to dump the costs of their activities on the public. Local authorities are clearly not able to deal with this. There has to be a robust national government programme that both deals with the legacy and stops all further opencasting unless there are guarantees that the operator can and will restore the site to the required standards.”
The council report also makes clear that:
- there will be no funds for restoring abandoned mines other than the bonds set up for the mine operators; but it is not even certain that all of those funds will be available
- because of the enormous funding shortfall, restoration at all sites will have to be massively scaled back from the plans on which the companies got their planning consents
- restoration will take years to achieve
- sites “disclaimed” by KPMG could end up with no owner
- Hargreaves has been allowed to resume coal operations at two sites even though the bonds for those sites still do not cover the restoration costs
- Hargreaves has told the council that if it demands restoration plans for current and future sites that are not “commercially viable”, it will disclaim those sites
Spaven added: “There is no sign from this report that the basic problem – companies being allowed to dig coal out without being forced to restore the land afterwards – is being addressed. In June we called for a public inquiry into the Scottish opencast crisis. We also need immediate action by the Scottish Government to stop even more damage being caused by companies determined to trash the environment with impunity.”
Malcolm Spaven 0771 044 7378
Note to editors: The Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance (SOCA) was formed in
May 2013 to address the issues faced by communities living near opencast coal mines.