Scotland takes big steps away from coal
May 18, 2016
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Banks has to mothballed its Rusha opencast coal mine in West Lothian!

There will only be one opencast coal mine in Scotland operating.

Scotland’s last coal fired power station, Longannet, closed in March 2016.

Hunterston coal terminal has been clearing its stockpiles.

Campaigners welcome the changes but are fighting for sites to be remediated.

The reasons cited by Banks, mining company, for mothballing the Rusha coal mine were Longannet’s closure and foreign imports slowing trade. Banks say that they are restoring the site, except for the current coal face which they intend to maintain in a manner which would enable coaling to resume were there to be a revival in the coal market which made extracting this coal economically viable.[1]

As a result of Longannet’s closure, Hargreaves, announced that it will,”Cease power station grade coal production and minimise trading exposure”. [2] This comes in a climate of “continuing coal price weakness and low levels of coal demand arising from weak gas prices and an accelerated programme of UK coal generation plant closures.” [3] Therefore Hargreaves are closing their Scottish mines with the exception of House of Water in East Ayrshire. House of Water produces coal for domestic use and industry, not for power stations.

Hunterston, Scotland’s only international coal terminal has imported one boat of coal from Amsterdam this year. 22 ships have taken coal away from Hunterston in 2016. Of these 14 ships have taken coal from Hunterston to Kilroot power station in Northern Ireland, it is thought that they have been clearing the stockpiles. 8 other boats have left Hunterston with coal destined to other parts of the Scotland, France and the Isle of Man. [4]

Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance, a group of representatives from Scottish communities living next to coal mines and application sites are fighting to ensure that the opencast sites are resorted to the specifications of their planning permissions.There is a restoration crisis in Scotland caused by mining companies not keeping enough money aside to restore sites when they close or are abandoned. As a result sites are filling with toxic mine water and present a health hazard and create an eyesore.

What does this mean for opencast coal mines in the planning stages?

Hargreaves have an application to mine at Cauldhall, Mid Lothian, and one at Field House, County Durham, which have permission to start mining, but no work has commenced. News of Hargreaves withdrawing from the power station coal market makes it less likely that these sites will be mined.

Tower Colliery opencast is operated by Hargreaves in Wales. There has been an application to extend this mine, yet it now seems unlikely that they will continue to pursue this given RWE’s announced reduction in use of Welsh coal and decreased operating hours from March 2017. Hargreaves have said that they are considering cutting back on the production at Tower.

Banks has an application submitted to mine 3 million tonnes of coal from Highthorn, next to Druridge Bay and has just announced that it will seek permission to mine at Dewley Hill on the Northumberland/ Newcastle boundary. The impacts of ceasing mining at Rusha on these sites are not known, but it seems that Banks closing operating opencast sites will support communities arguments against new opencast proposals.

 

References

[1] West Lothian Courier (12/05/16) Banks Opencast mine suspended at Rusha, (not available online)

[2] Hargreaves Strategic Repositioning Update (27/04/16) http://www.hsgplc.co.uk/media/68267/Strategic-Repositioning-Update-27-April-2016.pdf viewed 18/05/16

[3] Ford, C. (27/04/16) North East major employer speeds up withdrawal from ailing coal sector http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/business/business-news/north-east-major-employer-speeds-11247915 viewed 18/05/16

[4] ClydeMaritime Statistics. http://clydemaritime.co.uk/ Arrivals and departures 2016.