Campaigners and local residents are calling on the Government not to let new open cast coal mining projects go ahead, as the UK moves away from the fossil fuel.
In a letter to Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, residents from County Durham and the Coal Action Network campaign have urged him to revoke planning permission for a surface coal mine in the area.
International commitments to tackle climate change under the Paris Agreement, and the Government’s pledge to phase out polluting coal for electricity, mean that the fossil fuel has “no long-term future”, they argue.
As a result, ministers should not put local people’s health and the environment at risk by allowing new open cast coal mines to go ahead, they said.
And the company is waiting for a decision from Mr Javid on a controversial mining scheme in Druridge Bay, Northumberland.
The call by campaigners to halt both projects comes as coal makes up an increasingly small share of electricity generation in the UK, ahead of the Government’s promised deadline to phase out coal power by October 2025.
The UK and Canada have also launched an international coalition to encourage countries and states to move past coal power, called “Powering Past Coal”.
“If it fails to intervene in these projects, the Government will allow local people’s health and ecology to be needlessly and permanently damaged, and risk its reputation as an international leader in ‘powering past coal’.”
Tom Davison, who lives 150 metres from the Bradley site, said the community returns being offered by the company would not balance out the lasting damage the scheme would do.
“We have moved onto other forms of cleaner energy for the good of our global climate, so why is it worth harming the local wildlife and local economy for one last money grab,” he said.
Lewis Stokes, community relations manager at The Banks Group, said of the Bradley project: “We understand that some people living close to the proposed site have raised questions and concerns about the project.
“However, we have a proud history of working and restoring over 110 sites and working with the local communities to ensure their concerns are addressed and we have already started to do this at the Bradley site.
“Many of the comments we’ve been getting on the doorstep from residents recognise the importance of bringing new employment and supply chain opportunities to the area, and of the positive, long-term impact that the project’s community benefits fund would have on the facilities available to local people.”
And he said “high quality well mined indigenous coal has a vital role to play” in the move towards a low-carbon economy.
“The Government’s own projections state that coal will continue to be an important part of the UK’s energy mix until at least 2025, and substantial amounts are also essential for a wide variety of important UK industrial processes, such as the manufacturing of cement and steel.
“Taking on the existing planning approval for the Bradley surface mine has been identified as one of a number of different options for how we can meet our continuing high customer demand for coal, and we will ensure local people, businesses and community groups are kept fully informed of progress as it is made.”