A group of protesters gathered today at the Ffos-y-Fran opencast coal mine near Merthyr Tydfil, calling for an end to all opencast mining in the country.
Hundreds of activists dressed in red boiler suits joined together carrying banners with slogans such including ‘no new coal’ and ‘keep it in the ground’ for a “family friendly” protest.
They were joined by Green party leader Natalie Bennett as well as the leader of the Welsh Green Party, Alice Hooker-Stroud, who said: “We are here to support the local community who are fighting against the devastating impacts of open cast mining in their local area.
“Fossil fuels must stay in the ground if we’re to act responsibly on climate change. There is huge potential for renewables in Wales, creating a clean energy economy fit for the future.”
The protest was organised by environmentalist action group Reclaim the Power and began at 5.30AM, with several activists chaining themselves to various bits of heavy machinery and nine people chained together in a line, blocking road access to the site.
Their efforts brought work at the mine to a halt for the day and was described in a press release from the group as “the largest ever action in a UK opencast coal mine.”
The press release cited on-site activist Hannah Smith as saying: “Today we’ve shut down the UK’s largest coal mine because we must keep fossil fuels in the ground to stop catastrophic climate change.
“Continuing to dig up coal is a red line for the climate that we won’t allow governments and corporations to cross.
“We are taking action in solidarity with the local community who have been battling Ffos-y-fran for nearly a decade, and now face the threat of a new mine next door.
“Wales deserves a transition away from dirty coal, and the creation of sustainable employment in an economy that respects our planet and its inhabitants, now and in the future.”
Police were present at the protest, having been aware of its planning, but maintained that they saw “nothing to suggest a risk of disorder.”
A South Wales Police spokesperson said: “We do have a visible police presence around the area and sufficient police resources on standby to manage any public safety issues.”
Neil Brown, MD of Miller Argent, the company which owns the mine, defended its use, saying: “it’s a local industry, its Welsh jobs, people don’t realise we support the steel industry and we support affordable generation.”
Miller Argent applied to build a new opencast coal mine near Rhymney in Wales but had the application turned down by the Caerphilly council in August 2015. They are currently attempting to appeal against the council’s decision.