from Sunday Herald, 27 January 2013
Private companies are planning a massive expansion of opencast coal mining in Scotland, according to information released by the UK government’s Coal Authority.
As many as 21 developments are being proposed across the central belt and in the south to dig out more than 37 tonnes of coal. Many are extensions of existing mines, but some are major new sites.
The largest proposal is by Scottish Coal for Cauldhall in Midlothian, which is believed to contain as much as 10 million tonnes of coal. According to campaigners, this is going to run into major opposition.
More opencast mining is also planned for East Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, the Lothians, Falkirk and the Scottish Borders (see table below). The coal industry says it must expand to survive because existing mines are nearing exhaustion.
But the protest group, Coal Action Scotland, argues that coal is a dying industry that is wrecking the climate and destroying local communities. The industry is facing financial difficulties, it says, which cast doubt on its ability to keep its promises of restoration.
“The worry now is that the industry will either be deregulated as councils and government scramble to their aid, or that they'll go bust and leave massive holes in the ground," said Coal Action Scotland’s David Grey.
"It's happened before and, if they can get away with it, it'll happen again: coal companies go bust before they've started restoring a site and the site gets left as a dangerous eyesore.”
Scottish Coal, however, insisted that it had a healthy future, and that it would keep its promises. “Scottish Coal has undergone a recent restructuring to ensure the business is in good condition to continue its vital role of supplying Scottish coal to UK power stations,” said a company spokesman.
“The cost of production has continued to rise at the same time as the selling price has fallen. The company is therefore focusing on reducing costs whilst also seeking to bring forward new, lower cost sites.”
He added: “Subject to finances, economics and consents, Scottish Coal plans to open several new sites in 2013 which will supply secure, affordable energy supplies to consumers and continue to provide job opportunities in rural Scotland.”
Opencast coalmines planned for Scotland
site / company / coal reserve (tonnes)Auchencorth, Scottish Borders / Scottish Coal / 400,000
Glenmuckloch ‐ The Knowe extension, Dumfries and Galloway / ATH Resources / 325,000
Glenmuckloch eastern extension, Dumfries and Galloway / ATH Resources / 500,000
Rigg, Dumfries and Galloway / Aardvark TMC / 1.3m
Rigg north, Dumfries and Galloway / Aardvark TMC / 945,000
Greenburn ‐ Carsgailoch Hill extension, East Ayrshire / Kier Minerals / 4m
Greenburn ‐ Wellhill Farm extension, East Ayrshire / Kier Minerals / 750,000
House of Water Burnston, East Ayrshire / Scottish Coal / 2.6m
Skares Road eastern extension, East Ayrshire / ATH Resources / 60,000
Chalmerston Benbain, East Ayrshire / Scottish Coal / 1.2m
Lanehead, East Ayrshire / Scottish Coal / 1.1m
Broken Cross northeast extension, South Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 1m
Broken Cross south extension, South Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 3.25m
Glentaggart east, South Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 4m
Headless Cross east, North Lanarkshire / Scottish Coal / 1.1m
Greenhill, Falkirk / Chartmount / 191,000
Rusha extension, West Lothian / H J Banks / 140,000
Cauldhall, Midlothian / Scottish Coal / 10m
Muir Dean, Fife / ATH Resources / 750,000
St Ninians southern extension, Fife / Scottish Coal / 3.4m
Wellsgreen Farm, Fife / Hall Construction / 744,000