Hundreds of protesters halted work at the UK’s largest opencast coal mine in Merthyr Tydfil during peaceful protests on Tuesday, May 3.
Around 300 campaigners from the Reclaim The Power group descended on Ffos-y-Fran at 5.30am to blockade use of the site, and protest against plans to open a similar mine in Nant Llesg on land between Fochriw and Rhymney.
Among the 300 activists was Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, and the mass occupation of the Ffos-y-Fran site ended at around 5pm with no arrests.
Reclaim The Power spokesperson Hannah Smith, who was a part of the action, said:
“Today we 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.
“With Wales going to the polls this Thursday and the climate crisis more urgent than ever, our action sends a bold signal that we must end coal now.”
Protesters donned red boilersuits and used props such as inflatable cubes, dragon puppets and metres-long red banners to promote the ‘End Coal Now’ campaign.
The site owner said it was concerned with the safety of everyone on site, including the protesters and emergency services, and that supporting the steel industry, affordable electricity and climate change were all important issues.
Neil Brown, Managing Director of Miller Argent, said: “What we need is a sensible debate that supports jobs in Wales. Welsh coal is an important part of this.
“The UK carbon tax is over five times of that in Europe, so it’s no wonder companies like Tata are losing money.
“The Conservative Government is responsible for this tax, the most anti-business tax ever imposed in the UK. This tax makes our electricity 65% more expensive than in Germany, which hits us all in the pocket.”
As well as halting operations at the site, campaigners protested against Miller Argent’s plans to open a similar 478-hectare opencast mine in Nant Llesg, between Fochriw and Rhymney.
Activists want a suspension on Welsh opencast mining to prevent pollution of local homes and the environment.
Miller Argent have appealed against Caerphilly County Borough Council’s decision to reject planning plans for the Nant Llesg site.