Climate Activists Occupy Welsh Coal Mine as Part of Global Wave of Fossil Fuel Protests

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Hundreds of protesters have descended on the UK’s largest coal mine, calling for the mining company to shut it down and ditch its plans to dig out a new one next door.
 
Climate activist group Reclaim the Power (RtP) set up its ‘End Coal Now’ camp on Sunday next to Ffos-y-fran opencast coalmine, near Merthyr Tydfil, Wales. They will occupy the site, which they’re powering with solar energy, until 4 May, the day before the Welsh Assembly elections.
 
The campaigners are demanding no new coal mines be built in the UK, a ban on opencast coal mining, and the creation of thousands of green jobs in Wales to support the transition away from fossil fuels.

An RtP spokesperson said: “We have 195 governments around the world signed up to the 1.5°C limit. If we’re serious about tackling the climate crisis we have to keep 80 per cent of all known fossil fuels in the ground.”
 
The protest culminates with a ‘mass action’ on Tuesday, when the campaigners will occupy the coal mine itself, aiming to prevent the coal extraction both immediately and permanently.
 
The camp is one of twelve events happening on every continent for a global month of action in support of a transition away from fossil fuels.
 
Solidarity
 
The protesters have joined forces with the local United Valleys Action Group, which has been resisting the 11 million tonne Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine since 2007.
 
Residents have complained of respiratory problems, not being able to hang their washing outside and coal dust staining their homes.
 
Politicians and residents added their support to yesterday’s ‘Solidarity Sunday’ rally, which celebrated the local community’s efforts to see off opencast coal mining.
 
Local councillors June Gale and Elizabeth M. Aldworth, as well as Alice Hooker-Stroud, leader of Welsh Greens, and Bob Griffin, Liberal Democrat candidate for Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney joined discussions.
 
“If we can tip the balance of power, we can put this to bed forever and get on with our lives”, said Chris Austin, a United Valleys Action Group campaigner.
 
No new mine
 
Locals are now also battling against proposals by Miller Argent, the Ffos-y-fran coal company, to build a new mine just next door at Nant Llesg.
 
Caerphilly County Council rejected the application for the new mine in August 2015 but Miller Argent is trying to overturn this decision.
 
Ellen Gibson, a spokesperson from Reclaim the Power, said: “The local community have battled the giant Ffos-y-fran mine polluting their homes and our planet for nearly a decade.
 
“Now we are joining them to resist coal company Miller Argent’s attempts to override local democracy and force through a new mine next door.”
 
The protest follows last week’s announcement that Wales’s biggest coal-fired power station, Aberthaw, would downgrade its operations from April next year.
 
An RtP spokesperson said: “Coal is the dirtiest fossil fuel. It has to go. Given what’s going on with global climate change, the effect it’s having on local communities in Wales and the fact that Aberthaw is winding down operations, there is absolutely no case for new mining.”
 
Miller Argent, the company which runs Ffos-y-Fran, has said it supports local jobs and generates affordable electricity across the UK.
 
No one at Miller Argent was available to comment.

Photo: Reclaim the Power 2015 via Flickr

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Victoria Seabrook writes about climate change, the criminal justice system, and social justice. She is news editor at independent local newspaper Hackney Citizen and co-editor of Prison Watch UK.

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