Solidarity Sunday, End Coal Now camp
May 7, 2016
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Reclaim the Power’s ‘Solidarity Sunday’, focussed on solidarity with the local community living next to the existing mine, Ffos-y-fran and the proposed mine site, Nant Llesg and international struggles against the coal industry. It was the second day of the End Coal Now camp by Reclaim the Power.

Campers travelled to Fochriw village hall to talk with local people and campaigners from UVAG (United Valleys Action Group).

Speakers from various groups spoke about the effect of the mining; local councillors spoke of the pressure they were placed under to approve the mine application for Nant Llesg last summer against their better judgement; unionists spoke for the need for climate jobs; Fuel Poverty Action mentioned that if we paid for all carework we wouldn’t need an economy based on ‘material development’; we heard about the situation in relation to renewables in the UK and within Wales; UVAG made us all laugh alongside the serious stories from their resistance to mining in south Wales; and the local council candidates stated their position on mining and coal in south Wales.

Following this a beautiful banner was painted, informal conversations were had, delightful cake was eaten, UVAG t-shirts bought and relationships formed.

There is a meeting planned for those who are interested in feeding back about the process of organising the camp from Wales or want to get involved in the long term campaigns against south Wales coal mines and Aberthaw power station. Saturday 18th June from 2-6pm in St David’s Community Center, High street, Rhymney, Caerphilly, NP22 5NB https://www.facebook.com/events/1694186700820274/

In the evening, back on camp, we heard from the speakers from UVAG and Frack Free Wales. The audience got to see a snippet of Coal Action Network’s Buried Sunshine performance. The show looks at the impact of mining in Colombia on the local communities. It shows how mining coal for the UK’s power stations can cause divisions and tensions at the points of extraction. It is a story both specific to the issue and the place while being universal to communities at the front line of extraction of resources. If you would like to help organise a full performance, please get in touch with scarlet @ coalaction.org.uk

The evening then progressed into a plenary with contributions detailing the international situation in relation to coal.

Anne from the Coal Action Network spoke of the links between the UK’s power stations and the mines in Russia where indigenous people are being driven off their land. The Shor and the Teleut people are subjected to un-liveable conditions caused by opencast mines supplying the UK, where water is no longer drinkable, wildlife has fled and kitchen gardens are covered with dust. The residents are forced to move to urban areas away from their spiritual homes where their languages fade from use. For a visual understanding of the issues see a great film from the area ‘Condemned

Ecodefense! a Russian activist group are visiting the UK from the 25nd May to the 10th June. They are touring the country speaking with the Coal Action Network about the conditions in the UK, the USA, Colombia and Russia and looking at how, together we can fight this industry once and for all. All tour dates are on www.coalaction.org.uk/tour

The Coal Action Network then detailed the situations in the USA from where 14% of the coal burnt in the UK comes from. Here longwall mining is a particularly destructive form of deep mining where the ground level is dropped by 2 – 12 feet as the material above the coal seem collapses once coal is removed. In Appalachia mountaintop removal coal mining is destroying entire mountain ranges and causing cancers in the local populations. “In Southern West Virginia we live in a war zone. Three and one half million pounds of explosives are being used every day to blow up the mountains. Blasting our communities, blasting our homes, poisoning us, trying to intimidate us. I don’t mind being poor. I mind being blasted and poisoned. There ARE no jobs on a dead planet,” said the late Judy Bonds. She was a campaigner against mountaintop removal mining who founded Coal River Mountain Watch to campaign to end the mining.

The Coal Action Network has released Ditch Coal, a report into the UK’s supply chain for coal which fully explains the issues our addiction to this unsustainable fuel has on people living in Russia, Colombia and the USA.

The next speaker was Rumana Hashem, founder of the Phulbari Solidarity Group and executive member of the National Committee to Protect Oil, Gas, Mineral Resources, Power and Ports in Bangladesh. She spoke to a full tent of activists. Rumana shared her decade-long experience in stopping an open-pit coal mine in north west Bangladesh, highlighting the successful campaign against Global Goal Management (GCM), a London-based mining company, who want to build an immense open-pit mine in the Phulbari region of Bangladesh.

She discussed GCM’s attempts to obtain approval for Phulbari open-pit mine, which if constructed, would result in the forced displacement of 120,000 people and would cause extensive environmental degradation to prime agricultural land in Bangladesh. By illustrating her eye witness to the shooting on a demonstration of 80,000 people that left three people shot dead on the spot and over 200 injured, in 2006. Rumana emphasised that strong opposition and long-term constructive actions could stop any mining company and government from destroying our planet.

Rumana also discussed the campaigns against the building of new power stations in the port city of Chittagong, and in Khulna. In describing the threats posed by the proposed Rampal power plant close to the Sundarbans in Bangladesh, the world’s largest mangrove forest and a World Heritage site. She said that, “in Bangladesh, coal power plant does not only take away land but also kills people and rare animals.” Full details of the campaigns she mentioned can be seen at www.phulbarisolidaritygroup.org.uk

(adapted from the above website)

The final speaker of the evening came from Germany to talk about the campaigns against lignite mining there and to encourage activists to come to Ende Gelaende in the Lusatia mining region near Berlin, Germany. She spoke of the inspiration for the German Klima camps coming from the first Climate Camp at Drax in 2006. It was interesting to see how campaigns here have influenced Germany and then ideas from Germany have affected UK actions. The whole End Coal Now camp was inspired by last years’ Ende Gelaende action. Ideas and tactics are being learnt and modified, then taught to the original groups in the UK and Germany. She encouraged people to join the international fight and continue to struggle against mining in our homelands as well.

The whole day was really uplifting and inspiring. Although our battles may seem big, we are in good company. United we can end this destructive industry, for the benefit of all life on earth.