Attorneys have stated that allowing a massive mine to continue excavation after its planning permission expired is potentially illegal and establishes a terrible precedent.
Tuesday marked the start of a notice requiring the Ffos-y-Fran opencast mine in Merthyr Tydfil to cease coal extraction within 28 days. Climate activists' attorneys argued that the Welsh government and Merthyr council should have intervened sooner.
The council, however, stated that it held a "contrary legal view of the situation." It stated that it would not comment further due to "potential litigation," whereas the Welsh government stated that it wished to "manage the end of coal extraction and use."
Ffos-y-Fran, the largest and now final opencast coal mine in the United Kingdom, has a lengthy and controversial history, and its closure is also becoming a drawn-out saga. Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd has until the end of July to cease all coal mining, as its request for additional time on environmental grounds was denied in April.
It indicates that the mine, which is roughly the size of 400 football fields, will have been able to operate for at least 10 months beyond the expiration of its planning permission in September 2022. Between 7 September 2022 and 31 March 2023, 199,307 tonnes of coal were extracted from the site, according to the data.
In an open letter of legal advice, the Coal Action Network's barristers stated that the situation brought the planning system "into disrepute." Matthew McFeeley of the environmental law firm Richard Buxton Solicitors stated that it unquestionably conveys a message to other operators who may be considering closing their coal mine or oil well. They might be able to deal with a lengthy extraction period without adequate preparation.
Residents and activists have protested the situation for a couple of months, posting photographs, videos, and drone footage of alleged mining. Chris Austin, 67, who lives nearby stated that it was "extremely frustrating." He went on to say that the local administration could have acted right away, but they stalled.
Dr. Neil Harris, Senior professor in statutory planning at the University of Cardiff, pointed out that the fact that a request to extend the mine's existence was submitted just days before the planning permission expired was crucial to the drawn-out process that has ensued. He suggested that the council's "a little cautious" stance was due to its desire to make the correct decision in a "really complicated case" and avoid legal challenge.
Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd. previously stated that it was in "active discussion" with the council about assuring "a safe cessation of coaling" and ongoing restoration. The site employs roughly 180 individuals and supplies both the steelworks in nearby Port Talbot and the heritage steam railways of the United Kingdom.
A spokeswoman for the Merthyr council stated, "We have a different legal perspective on the situation." Given the potential for litigation, it is inappropriate to make any further comments." A spokeswoman for the Welsh government stated, "Our position is clear: we want to bring a managed end to coal extraction and use."We are in a climate and environmental emergency, and the response must be rapid and decisive if we are to leave future generations with a Wales that we can be proud of."