Scottish Coal have announced that they are no longer perusing a new 420,000 tonne open cast coal mine at Auldton Heights, just south of Lesmahagow in South Lanarkshire. The confirmation came in a letter to Douglas Community Council, where Planning Consultant Stephen Beebe stated the following: “I can confirm on behalf of Scottish Coal, that the company is not proceeding with a planning application for the Auldon Heights surface mining proposal as set out in the 2010 Forward Strategy for South Lanarkshire and forming part of the public consultation exercise we carried out last autumn. The reason for this is based on commercial viability considerations and technical issues.”
While we can only guess at what the “commercial viability considerations and technical issues” are, communities living around the proposed mine, and indeed at Aulton which would have been up against the site boundary and well within the 500m buffer zone, can heave a sigh of relief for the time being. In addition, the Forward Strategy has now been reduced to 2 new applications: one at Glentaggart East and a North Eastern Extension to Broken Cross.
Substantial efforts have been made to oppose the Aulton Heights application over the past year, with a public meeting rallying support against it in Lesmahagow in December 2010, a leaflet drop to over 5,000 households in the area and direct action against Scottish Coal’s infrastructure. The campaign is undobtedly at least partly responsible for this announcement, and we’d also hope partly responsible for Scottish Coal’s 90% drop in profits last year.
However, Scottish Coal are notorious across Scotland for consistently lying and and breaking promises made to communities. This announcement is therefore to be taken with a pinch of salt – after all, Scottish Coal bought the farm property on the Aulton Heights site from the Forestry Commission last year, and own all the mineral rights for the site and surrounding areas, highlighted in the new South Lanarkshire Council Minerals Plan as having recoverable coal deposits. It is entirely possible that Scottish Coal now want to stagger these mine applications after seeing the level of cross-community resistance to them, or even that they had no intention of mining Auldton at all, and that it was a distraction from bigger proposals.
For now though, that’s one down and two to go for the Douglas Valley – for information of how to object to Scottish Coal’s new open cast applications including a 4-million tonne mine at Glentaggart East please see here.