OPENCAST: Mining death is ‘inevitable’

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It is wholly appropriate that the UK Government resolves the contradictions between Government planning and environmental policies.

These contradictions are pivotal to the arguments being made by local residents and the wider community in objection to the proposed Druridge Bay opencast mine and is the reason this planning decision has been called in.

In this day and age, planning decisions should consider the wider impact of proposed developments.

They should balance climate change, financial viability, impact on sustainable jobs, demand and market for the product, protection of wildlife habitats, etc.

It is almost impossible to see how a considered and impartial planning decision could be reached on the Druridge Bay mine based solely on the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which encourages a close relationship between planners and developers and enticements for local communities.

As a consequence of the current planning system the farce which unfolded at the planning meeting in July was entirely predictable, laying the decision open to being called in.

If people doubt global warming is an issue, they only need cast their mind back 30 years when the seasons of a year were well defined. In earth’s evolution, this is an infinitesimally short period of time, but the change to the world’s climate is clear and well documented. Consequently, it is appropriate that the voices of people objecting to this proposal from far and wide should be heard.

It is not just a local issue, as Northumberland County Council and Banks would have you believe, but one of national and global importance.

In contrast to Banks’ insistence that the Druridge Bay mine is essential for electricity production, it has mothballed its Rusha mine in Scotland. The deflated coal price and loss of demand from the Longannet power station, which closed in March, were cited for this closure, with Banks stating that it was waiting for ‘a revival in the coal market to make extracting this coal economically viable’.

With this backdrop it is difficult to understand why Banks continues to pursue planning approvals for new mines when it has mothballed existing workings.

The death of another of the region’s historic industries is unfortunate, but inevitable. Over the next five to eight years, all indicators are that opencast coal mining in the UK will go the way of ship building on the Tyne, steel making in Consett and the UK’s deep mines as UK markets dry up.

There is already planning consent in place in the UK for mines to extract coal during this period. Only seven coal-fired power stations remain open in the UK, with two of these on standby and a further two at risk of closure in 2017.

Based on the rate of closures and the depressed world coal price, circa £33/tonne, revenues from coal extraction have slumped.

There appears little rationale in Banks’ claims that the market situation will have improved by 2017, or that destroying what is a beautiful and tranquil environment is essential to keep the lights on in the UK.

David Patchett,

Druridge Bay Cottages