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Ffos-Y-Fran open cast mine, Merthyr Tydfil. Photo: Caradog Llywelyn via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).
Ffos-Y-Fran open cast mine, Merthyr Tydfil. Photo: Caradog Llywelyn via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).
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Flesh against fossil fuels: let's shut down the UK's largest coal mine!

A Climate Activist

18th April 2016

Next month thousands will gather in Wales to shut down the UK's open cast coal mine at Ffos­y­fran, whose 3,500 acres abut both Merthyr Tydfil, one of Britain's most deprived communities, and the glorious Brecon Beacons national park. It will be one of dozens of coordinated actions across the UK, and around the world, to bring the age of coal to the rapid end it so richly deserves.

To avoid catastrophic climate change, we have to keep 80% of known coal reserves in the ground. Consumption needs to be tackled, but so too does production ­ and with governments hiding from the issue, it's up to ordinary people to take control.

2015 was a bad year for coal. Global coal use fell by up to 5%. Peabody Energy - the world's largest private coal company - continued its precipitous decline, with a fall in its share price of more than 800% across 4 years.

2016 got off to an even worse start. In January the United States' second largest coal company - Arch Coal -­ filed for bankruptcy.

And last week it only got worse: Peabody moved from share price collapse into bankruptcy with a massive $1 billion hole in its finances.

The Chinese government has announced the closure of more than 5,000 coal mines, with 1,000 to go this year. Almost half the UK's coal power stations have announced closure in the last 12 months.

But coal's inevitable demise is not happening quickly enough. To avoid catastrophic climate change, we have to keep more than 80% of known coal reserves in the ground. Consumption needs to be tackled, but so too does production ­ and with governments still hiding from the issue, it is the responsibility of ordinary people to take control.

Join us in May to demand a halt to coal!

In May thousands of us will gather at key points across the planet and use our bodies to stop the world's most destructive fossil fuel projects. From the Philippines to Brazil, Indonesia to Nigeria, a mass movement now exists to make sure things keep getting worse for fossil fuels.

In Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, local campaigners will set up camp with people from across the country. We will then use non­violent direct action to shut down Ffos­y­fran, the UK's largest opencast coal mine. This is the pivotal moment to kill coal in the UK, and Ffos­y­fran is the pivotal mine. Just days after our action, Wales will vote in the Welsh Assembly elections and ending coal mining will be a major election issue.

Back in Westminster, the UK government is planning to phase­out coal power plants by 2025 - it is clear the use of coal is drying up. We are at a crossroads. Down one road, we choose to open further mines and continue to burn the dirtiest of fossil fuels. Down another road, we accelerate the Just Transition from dangerous, unhealthy and uncertain mining, to millions of new jobs in clean energy. This May is the moment to make it happen.

Ffos­y­fran is 178m deep, and covers 3,500 acres. It is huge scar on the beautiful landscape of the Brecon Beacons. For almost a decade, local people have fought against it but now they face the further injustice of another new mine, next door at Nant Llesg.

Despite the local Council and community already rejecting the application, the mining company Miller Argent is appealing, attempting to trample over the local decision.

For too long, community struggles to prevent these mines have been ignored. Last year the Welsh Assembly even voted for a moratorium on opencast coal mines, but the current government haven't passed that vote into law. Petitions, lobbying, and protests have played their part, but to put a stop to destructive mining once and for all, direct action is also essential.

We'll not only be taking direct action against coal. Across four days, in the tradition of the Climate Camps and Reclaim the Power camps at Heathrow, Kingsnorth and Didcot power stations and elsewhere, we'll build a camp for hundreds of people from scratch, powered by clean energy, and demonstrating a positive, democratic and sustainable community.

You, yes, you! Come and help create this space!

There'll be inspiring talks with speakers from communities on the frontlines of climate change and fossil fuel extraction. It'll be a place to learn about the clean energy transition that's already begun, and how to ensure that the new sustainable world we're building sweeps aside inequality at the same time as we sweep aside fossil fuels.

And it will be a place to learn how to take non­violent direct action, and to meet people ensuring that this camp is part of a groundswell of constant action for climate justice.

Last year, I took part in a non­violent direct action to close Shotton opencast coal mine, England's largest, on the ancestral estate of Viscount Matt Ridley -­ a prominent climate change denier in the House of Lords. It was the most empowering thing I've ever done, and it was effective too.

With just a few friends, we were able to close the mine for a day, and got national media coverage highlighting the hypocritical and self-interested influence of fossil fuels in government. Imagine what we can do with hundreds!

In fact, we've already seen how effective such mass actions can be; our camp is partly inspired by last year's EndeGelände, where 1,500 people gathered in Germany to successfully shut down RWE's lignite mines.

This year, we and thousands like us across the planet will not be shouting from the sidelines; we will be directly stopping those who would burn fossil fuels with impunity, in the face of a global climate on the verge of disastrous tipping points.

When even the Governor of the Bank of England is saying that the vast majority of fossil fuels are "literally unburnable" and still governments are not acting, it's up to me and you to take direct action.



Action: Join us!

This article is written by a climate activist who on 26th October 2015, helped to shut down England's largest open cast coal mine. Because of previous police repression of environmental campaigners, the author wishes to remain anonymous. It was originally published on openDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.


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