'Keep coal in the ground': Extinction Rebellion activists protest against Aberpergwm mine license

Extinction Rebellion Cymru activists have taken action at Aberpergwm mine to protest against a new license its been given to extract another forty million tonnes of coal.

Around 50 activists from the climate change action group held a demonstration on Friday at the coal mine in Neath Port Talbot with two activists climbing the roof of office buildings and another two locking themselves together in the Energybuild office - the company that owns the mine.

Two activists locked themselves together in the Energybuild office

The company has labelled the mine as the "only source of high-grade anthracite in Western Europe." 

Also referred to as ‘hard coal', anthracite has the highest carbon content of all coal types. It has lower levels of sulphur and produces more heat and less smoke than other types of coal.

Energybuild say most of its coal is not burned for energy but instead used for processes including water purification.

And given the current sanctions on Russian gas and oil, some people were left wondering if we need all the fuel we can get at the moment.

One activist said: "Yeah I think all the issues are interlinked. Wars will become our future. More people will become refugees in the future due to war because of the climate crisis. So it really is an issue that needs to be talked about now."

Fifty activists from the climate change action group held a demonstration on Friday

The Coal Authority is expected to decide soon whether conditions have been met to allow new work to begin at a Aberpergwm colliery in the Vale of Neath.

Despite the Welsh Government’s wishes to move away from coal entirely, plans would see an extension of the existing drift mine, possibly Europe’s biggest source of anthracite coal.

In 2016, the mine’s owner, Energybuild Ltd, was given a conditional mining licence allowing it to extract up to 40 million tonnes of anthracite in the next 20 years. 

The company has said that if the expansion was to go ahead, it would seek to dig up 7.3 million tonnes at a rate of 350,000 tonnes per year.

However, since COP26, a row has simmered between the UK Government and Welsh government ministers over who holds responsibility for reviewing and making a final decision.

Extinction Rebellion say the Welsh Government must stop the mining going ahead

Extinction Rebellion say the Welsh Government must stop the mining going ahead and that the focus needs to be on helping workers to transition into more sustainable jobs, rather than "releasing 1.17 million tonnes of the very strong greenhouse gas, methane into the atmosphere".

The climate change action group say the Welsh Government has been "slow to act" since declaring a climate emergency in 2019 and cite the license extension as a "huge barrier" in achieving its target of reaching net zero before 2050.

Extinction Rebellion who are also known as 'XR' are now asking people who are concerned to speak out against the license extension.

A rally will also be held outside the Senedd on Wednesday 16th March where environmental groups including 'Friends of the Earth' will be coming together under the banner of 'Coal Free Future Cymru'.

A rally will also be held outside the Senedd on March 16

Anthony Slaughter, Leader of the Welsh Green Party said: "The Coal Authority decision to grant an extension of the coal mining licence at Aberpergwm colliery is a disastrous setback to the challenge of reaching carbon net zero by 2050, a target endorsed by both the Welsh and UK governments. The attempts by both governments to avoid responsibility for this decision is a betrayal of future generations.

"2050 is no longer a distant date in the future.  We need to take urgent and meaningful action towards decarbonization across all sectors in Wales. Old fashioned, dirty, polluting ‘business as usual is no longer an option."

The UK Government has refused to categorically veto any decision to stop an expansion of the mine, a gift the Welsh Government says only Westminster has.

In response, the Welsh Government has raised concerns that there are "no guarantees” about how and where the coal produced will be used.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: "If burned, this would release around 100m tonnes of CO2, as well as other pollutants, into our environment going against everything COP26 stands for.

“We have been clear that we do not support the extraction of fossil fuels and are focused on the climate emergency.

“As the original licence here was issued before licensing powers were devolved, Welsh Ministers are not able to intervene in the licensing process and appropriately apply Welsh policy.”