The Coal Hole

Digging a coal-black hole in UK Climate Policy

Britain's biggest opencast coal mine at FFos-y Fran near Merthyr Tydfil

See pictures from demo at Argent PLC's London offices here.

Millier Argent call it a “land reclamation scheme” but this is an Orwellian euphemism for a 1,000 acre, 600 feet deep, black hole - just 36 meters from nearby houses and close to a primary school nursery.

'Miller Argent' is the consortium that is responsible for the UK’s biggest opencast coal mine at Ffoss-y-fran, near Merthyr Tydfil in South wales. The mine will produce dust, smoke and noise in a town that already has the worst health in Wales, for more than 15 years while the coal is being dug out.

But not only will the mine be the blight of Merthyr Tydfil - it will produce 30 million tonnes of climate-wrecking CO2.

Coal produces more C02 than any other fuel. We desperately need to reduce our emissions of C02 and do it NOW because scientists tell us we have only ten years or so before climate change could accellerate out of control. Even the government realises this and is committed to emission reduction targets in its Climate Bill. But to achieve these reductions we should be urgently looking at ways to both reduce energy consumption and find sources of energy that do not produce CO2. This is absolutely not the time to be ripping up the land and making the lives of the people of Merthyr a misery in order to perpetuate a fossil-fuel economy that will only bring catastrophe if we dont ditch it for something better - fast !

And its not just about making the right energy policy decisions here in the UK. We need to be able to argue for the whole world to reduce emissions - no other way can we deal with the global climate crisis - and we cannot do that with any credibilty if we are expanding our own production of the dirtiest of fossil fuels - coal



A nasty Smell of government collusion.


Moreover Miller Argent only seems to have been able to get away with this environmentally destructive money-making scheme due to the devious hidden hand of government support. A letter sent in 2004 from Stephen Timms, then energy minister, to Rhodri Morgan, first minister of Wales, says “my officials have had regular contact with Miller Argent” and demands that the company’s application be ”resolved with the minimum of further delay”. This was against the will of locals who mustered 10, 000 signatures against the scheme and won a ruling against it in the high court only to be overturned on Miller Argent’s appeal. Yet the whole scheme was only able to go ahead because planning rules for coal workings in Wales have been delayed for ten years. In Scotland there has to be a buffer of 500 metres between the workings and peoples’ homes - and a technical advice note from the Wesh office recommends 350 metres but its full implementation has been delayed. There is the suspicion that it has been deliberately delayed to make sure operations like the one at Merthyr (where the nearest homes are 36 metres away) can go ahead without hindrance. Also an offer of a health impact assessment from researchers at Cardiff University was twice turned down.

This all looks part and parcel of an unhealthily close relationship between the government and the commercial interests backing ‘new coal’ as the former cedes all the demands of a new ‘Coal Forum’ that it created (in 2006) and as it developes plans for a new wave of coal-fired power stations, starting with Kingsnorth in Kent. This is a policy direction that will be disastrous for the climate and will make even the government’s own emission reduction targets impossible to reach. The victims of this insane decision making will not just be the long-suffering people of Merthyr but the poorest and most vulnerable communities across the globe who will bear the brunt of the increasingly severe floods droughts, cyclones and other disasters that a destabilised climate will bring in its train.


It is claimed that CCS - “Carbon capture and storage” - will reduce the emissions from coal but that is a technology more than a decade away from commercial viability and the coal from the mine at Ffoss y Fran near Merthyr will be burnt long before it comes into operation - if it ever does. There is a way forward - we could be investing massively in offshore wind, tidal and wave energy schemes - the potential in the UK is tremendous. But the government’s record in developing renewable energy sources has been abysmal, the UK lagging far behind countries like Germany and Denmark. Yet this is something we could be doing straight away and, together with energy conservation, and adapting our lifestyles, offers the best hope - the best hope, that is, of dragging ourselves out of the deep black hole that the government and Miller Argent are dragging us into.


See George Monbiot's article in the Guardian (from which much of the above comes..) about Ffos-y-fran here


See more about the Ffos-y-Fran mine and keep up to date with direct action protests against the mine and nearby coal-burning Aberthaw Power station at

Find out about the local campaign against the opencast coal mine at



Demonstration on "Fossil Fool's Day" Tuesday April 1st, 3-6.30 pm outside the London offices of Argent Group PLC (5, Albany Courtyard, off Piccadilly). Argent Group are a property developement company, one half of the consortium. 'Miller Argent', that are behind Ffos y fran opencast coal mine.


Happy band of protestors outside 'Albany courtyard', the location of Argent plc offices.

When we arrived there were already 2 vanloads of police and a "pen" set up at the entrance to Albany Cortyard. This meant our event had already attracted a lot of attention and we had a place to hang our banners etc...


Here's the entrance doorway to the office of Argent group plc - see that little red 'A' (for Argent) on the wall. But we werent allowed anywhere close to this - this was taken with my zoom.


Fossil Fools ! Roger Madelin and David Partridge, co-executive directors of Argent Group plc


More protestors


Protestors with message: coal bad, wind and wave/tidal good ! There is an alternative !


CCC banner and flags on the barriers of our 'pen'- along one side of the entry road to Albany Courtyard - this is the end that buts onto Picadilly.

Another view.


The Fossil Fool's day music machine - maintained a lively atmosphere at the event.

Ben with the poster.


Michael and friends - happy leafleteers !


Leafleting in progress - 700 or so were given out.


Steve and Ben on Piccadilly opposite the demo pen.


Mr Steve Burak, with our posters on the wall.