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Coal mine protesters told they need reality check

Published on 2023-06-03 09:15:16 source:NBC News

Campaigners trying to stop 40 million tonnes being extracted from a mine need "a reality check", a court has heard.

Gregory Jones KC, for the Welsh government, dismissed the The Coal Action Network's view that Cardiff Bay politicians could stop extraction.

He told the Cardiff Justice Centre on Thursday the licence granted in 1996 for the Aberpergwm mine in Neath Port Talbot could not reviewed or revoked.

The campaigners argue the Welsh government does have the powers.

Mr Jones KC said politicians in Cardiff Bay had no such power, adding: "the ship has passed".

He told the judge, Mrs Justice Steyn, the issue was "done and dusted".

The Coal Action Network said the Welsh government had adopted a strong policy against coal mining in March 2021 and should be held to it.

The application by Energybuild, the company which runs the mine at Aberpergwm, would see 40 million tonnes of coal extracted.

Energybuild says most of the coal will not be burned, but used in processes such as water purification.

Last year the company employed around 160 staff.

But Coal Action Network claim expansion of mining there would mean the equivalent to 100 million tonnes of CO2 (carbon emissions) being released into the atmosphere.

It says the Welsh government should focus on transitioning the workers into industries with a cleaner, brighter future.

The Coal Authority, which issued the licence, says it does not have the power to revoke or review the licence application and has to follow the path laid in 1996.

But Estelle Dehon KC, for the Coal Action Network, told the hearing it was "wholly incorrect" for the Coal Authority to say it could not reconsider it.

"Its understanding of its powers is wrong" she said. "It has more discretion than just asking if an application complies with licensing duties."

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