Anti-coal campaigners were celebrating a major victory today as Business Minister Sajid Javid banned opencast mining in Druridge Bay — and are pushing for a similar ban at Pont Valley.
Javid’s Druridge decision stunned both activists and corporate bosses at site developer Banks Mining by citing climate change as his main reason for denying the application. A departmental statement noted:
The scheme would have an adverse effect on greenhouse gas emissions and climate change of very substantial significance, which [Javid] gives very considerable weight in the planning balance.
Northumberland County Council had originally approved the Bank application for a 3 million-tonne extraction process at the beauty spot and wildlife haven in 2016, but ran into stiff opposition with legal challenges and direct actions before the process was “called in” by Javid.
The Save Druridge campaign hailed the minister for understanding “the immense impact coal has had on climate change and also on communities which have had to live with opencast mines” while Friends of the Earth said it represented a “huge victory” for local residents.
Banks Mining meanwhile said the decision was “absolutely perverse.”
Javid’s grounds for denying extraction rights — that it made an unacceptable contribution to ongoing climate change — is considered to be a potential game-changer for the anti-coal movement, which is currently in the midst of a major new occupation campaign launched earlier this month at a planned opencast mine in Pont Valley. Coal Action Network said:
This is incredible news. Stopped because of climate change. Come on Sajid Javid you can also revoke the permission at Bradley, it is the only consistent way ahead. Coal causes climate change wherever it is dug up and burnt.
Like Druridge, the Pont Valley is also a unique landscape and rich habitat. If the government is serious about meeting emissions reductions under the Paris Agreement it must put a stop to all new opencast coal mines, now.
The Pont Valley site, which was set up on March 2nd opposite Brooms church on the A692 is aiming to stop another Banks Group project which is set to ramp up this spring. The Campaign to Protect Pont Valley, which is fundraising for materials, has already been served a possession order and is hoping for as much support as possible on Sunday.
Banks has also come up against a great deal of community resistance at the second site, with residents, community groups and the Coal Action Network having written to Javid, asking his to revoke planning permission alongside an 87,500-strong petition. In an effort to get ahead of any possible decision against it, Banks has already started removing trees and an ancient hedge to make an access road to start extracting coal, and is planning to work further on the access road at the end of March.
Campaigners believe this could be the last major battle against coal extraction in the UK.
Pic: Protesters scale trees in sub-zero temperatures in bid to stop Bradley opencast at the end of last month, from Coal Action Now.