Coal ‘conscience’ activists shut down England’s largest opencast mine

England's largest opencast mine

Courtesy of: End Coal Now, 2015

In yet another call for the UK government to end its love affair with coal, protesters have today shut down England’s largest opencast coal mine.

Entering the Shotton mine, situated on land belonging to prominent climate sceptic and Conservative peer Viscount Matt Ridley, the protesters have occupied one of the 500-tonne coal excavating machines, and are blockading the entrance to prevent coal leaving the site, closing down operations at the mine.

Over two-thirds of all known fossil fuels must stay in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change – with the majority of the world’s coal likely to be left “unburnable” in a carbon-constrained world.

As the UK’s aging coal plants continue to drive nearly 80% of the country’s power sector emissions.

Ellen Gibson, one of the activists locked-on at the front gate said:

Gone are the days when mining benefitted millions – now opencast mining lines the pockets of millionaires like climate sceptic Lord Ridley, whilst destroying the landscape and cooking the planet… The Government needs to end opencast mining and shut the UK’s last coal power station by 2023 at the latest. Lord Ridley should come clean about how much he rakes in from coal mining on his ancestral estate.

Labelled “Lord Ridley’s Conscience” they also aim to draw public attention to Lord Ridley’s self-interest in the coal industry and the irresponsibility of him using his position as a peer and a public figure to fuel misinformation that fossil fuels and climate change are “good for the world”.

In the last year alone, a million tonnes of coal was extracted from Shotton surface mine targeted by protesters, with Ridley estimated to have made £3-4 million from the operations. Meanwhile Banks Mining, who operate the Shotton mine, recently lodged an application for a huge new opencast coal mine at nearby Druridge Bay. Northumberland resident Rakesh Prashara said:

Mining for more coal is holding us back, instead we need to be investing in the renewable energy that would provide new skills and jobs to the young people of our region. Banks Mining’s proposal for yet another new opencast coalmine next to Druridge Bay would wreck an astoundingly beautiful coastline and damage tourism as well as the climate. We urge people to register their objections and for Northumberland Council to reject the proposal.

The protesters are calling for an end to opencast coal mining in the UK and join a growing number of people from across sectors urging the UK government to live up to its February pledge to “end the use of unabated coal” by phasing out the UK’s 10 remaining power stations by 2023. By committing to phase-out coal mining and burning, the UK government would help prevent 1,600 premature deaths every year from burning the dirty energy source, show it is listening to its citizens fighting against new coal mining across the country, and re-affirm its role as a  climate leader ahead of the UN climate talks next month.

Failing to phase out coal, while continuing its dangerous u-turns on clean energy support, will leave the government heading to Paris with “embarrassingly little to show”.

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