The new coal age
3rd June, 2008
The coal industry of last century is the prime reason Merthyr Tydfil has the worst health in the UK. Now, with more coal and cash to carve from one of Europe’s largest opencast mines, developers and the local authority are back to finish the job. Words and photographs by Amy Scaife
Wind turbines could have been standing here, turning in the strong winds streaming over the hills. But on the grounds of being noisy and unsightly, Merthyr Tydfil council overturned a planning application for a wind farm on the site of what is to be one of the largest opencast coalmines in Europe. Explosives blasting twice a day, massive machinery will then dig and scrape out an estimated 150 million tonnes of rock to reach the 10.8 million tonnes of coal buried here. With the nearest homes a mere 36m away and four schools within 600m, Merthyr’s residents must wonder how their council defines ‘noisy’ and ‘unsightly’. The £1 per tonne of coal (£10.8 million in total) the council will earn in royalties makes it quite clear where its motivation lies.
The site of the coal mine stretches over 1,000 acres, with the hole eventually reaching 200m down. But according to the council and Miller Argent, the consortium behind this great hole in the ground, it isn’t actually an opencast coalmine – it is the ‘Ffos-y- Fran Land Reclamation Scheme’, which will ‘restore 367 ha of derelict land’ and ‘go a long way towards creating a better and safer...
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