Conditions at seven old opencast coal mines across Scotland’s central belt are deteriorating with growing risks of pollution, flooding and accidents, according to confidential documents seen by the Sunday Herald.
Mines in Ayrshire, Lanarkshire and Fife, abandoned by Scottish Coal when it went bust in April 2013, are threatened by rising water levels, contaminated lagoons and erosion. But money to look after them is running out, and it’s far from clear where it will come from in the future.
Environmental and community groups say that there’s now a “national crisis” over the worsening state of Scotland’s opencast mines. It is putting local communities in danger and jeopardising the country’s international reputation for conservation, they warn.
Four mines in East Ayrshire, two in South Lanarkshire and one in Fife are now under the control of Scottish Coal’s liquidators, accountancy giant KPMG. But it has been struggling to find a new owner who would take responsibility for looking after them.
In a letter to creditors on 23 May, KPMG warned that “remedial works have increased in number and scope as the conditions on the sites deteriorate”. This was particularly due to rising water levels caused by heavy rain last winter, it said.
It had devised a programme of repair operations over the summer, and stressed that there had so far been no significant breaches of health and safety rules. “However, with the passage of time the ongoing inherent risk of a health and safety or environmental incident on one of the sites rises,” it said.