‘Cooperate to restore opencast sites before it’s too late, says community group

PRESS RELEASE: SCOTTISH OPENCAST COMMUNITIES ALLIANCE (SOCA)     16/2/2016

‘Cooperate to restore opencast sites before it’s too late, says community group

The Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance (SOCA) this morning called on government and the coal industry to work together to achieve restoration of the growing number of abandoned opencast sites in Scotland, “before it is too late”.

The call comes as Hargreaves, the main opencast operator in Scotland, announced that it is reducing its Scottish operations to only one site by June of this year. SOCA Chairman Malcolm Spaven said “weak companies in a dying industry won’t pay for restoration. We need all parties – Scottish and UK Governments, local government, agencies like the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, the Coal Authority and the Forestry Commission – to work together to pool all available money before this industry ceases to exist all together and communities are blighted forever.”

“Politicians wasted a whole year pursuing a tax break scheme for the industry” said Spaven. “That scheme was never going to work because it assumed power stations would still be buying coal. But there was no Plan B, and in the meantime the potential funds for restoration continue to shrink. We are now at serious risk of sites being completely abandoned once again, with little or no restoration completed.”

“We urgently need to know the cost of the remaining restoration required at each site so that the scale of the task facing abandoned communities is understood. And those communities need to be centrally involved in finding solutions to this ongoing crisis. We must have an end to the secrecy.” The Hargreaves announcement is contained in the company’s Interim Results for the six months to 30 November 2015, available at http://ir1.euroinvestor.com/asp/ir/Hargreaves/NewsRead.aspx?storyid=13310354&ishtml=1

The single remaining site in Scotland is expected to be House of Water in East Ayrshire, which is currently operating without a formal planning consent.

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Media contact: Malcolm Spaven 0771 044 7378

Note to editors: The Scottish Opencast Communities Alliance (SOCA) was formed in May 2013 to address the issues faced by communities living near opencast coal mines.