Extinction Rebellion uses pink boat to block entrance of Ffos-y-Fran coal mine
Extinction Rebellion has today used a large pink boat to blockade the entrance of the Ffos-y-Fran open-cast mine near Merthyr Tydfil in an attempt to shut down operations there.
The boat was secretly manoeuvred into position and dropped anchor at 9:30am on Wednesday (Jul 5) with a full crew of Extinction Rebellion Cymru/Wales and UK rebels on board.
All of the company’s lorry traffic immediately ground to halt, effectively shutting down the mining operation.
Half a dozen activists have locked themselves to boat – and announced they plan to stay in position despite facing the threat of up to 51 weeks in jail.
A dozen or more other protestors were present, occupying the site and supporting the blockade from the sidelines.
Extinction Rebellion activist Marcus Bailie of Caerphilly, who is locked on to the boat, said: “We have today done what the Welsh government, the UK government and the local council have failed to do – shut down the operations of the UK’s largest coal mine which has been operating without a licence since September last year.
“We aim to stop operations until at least the weekend and we are calling for as many people as possible to come down to support us and make this happen. It would be crazy if the mine owner or the government instructed the police to move against us just so the mine owners can continue what is an illegal operation.”
Ffos-y-Fran colliery has recently faced campaigns demanding closure by both locals and climate campaigners.
On April 26 last year, Merthyr Tydfil Council rejected the application to extend the mine’s permission to operate.
The Council decision to close the mine was welcomed by First Minister of the Welsh Government, Mark Drakeford.
But despite having no active licence, the mine’s owner Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd have continued to operate.
Based on the most recently available official statistics from The Coal Authority, by the end of May 2023, nearly 300,000 tonnes of coal would have been mined.
Campaigners say is has cost the climate of almost a million tonnes of CO2 as mining continues at a rate of over 1,000 tonnes each day
Sitting on top of the boat Liz Pendleton of XR UK said: “The authorities are missing in action. If they won’t step in to stop illegal, planet-wrecking coal mining, we will.”
Mining trucks can still be seen removing coal on a daily basis from Ffos-y-Fran, which opened as the largest open cast coal mine in the UK in 2007 with a 15-year licence which expired in September 2022.
The tactic being used by Extinction Rebellion to blockade the mine – called ‘locking on’ – was recently criminalised in England and Wales by the Public Order Act 2023 and is now punishable by up to 51 weeks in prison.
But they say they are willing to put their liberty on the line because “government and police have failed to stop the unlicensed mining operation”.
Bailie, of Extinction Rebellion said: “The mining company Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd have carried on regardless for more than eight months and no-one seems able to stop them. That’s why we’ve had to take matters into our own hands by coming here to demand they stop extracting and shipping coal immediately and for good.”
The activists plan to maintain their blockade night and day for at least a week with the action is expected to escalate on the weekend.
A group calling itself ‘No More Coal’ are organising a peaceful mass march on the mine at 10.30am on Saturday July 8th.
“We encourage hundreds, even thousands, of people to come from all over the country to march on Ffos-y-Fran to tell them that we, the people, say no more,” said Bailie.
An enforcement notice giving the owners of Ffos-y-Fran coal mine 28 days to stop extracting coal came into effect on 27th June 2023.
But if the company appeals the decision, enforcement could be delayed by up to 12 months while while the company continues its unlicensed operations.
The local council and the Welsh Government both have powers to issue a “stop” notice whereby mining would have to cease immediately.
The Coal Action Network say they obtained a legal opinion which found the Welsh Government and Merthyr Tydfil County Borough Council’s failure to act is “arguably unlawful”.
One month ago, on the 2nd June, activists blocked the entrance to the mine by padlocking the gates and partying outside.
Local Resident Mel Price who is taking part in today’s action said: “The mine owners have drawn millions in dividends while local residents have to tolerate all the noise and pollution caused by an illegal mine.
“The carbon emissions continue and the scar on the landscape gets bigger. The government and the legal system are prepared to lock up peaceful protestors for trying to stop fossil fuel companies and investors from profiting from the destruction of our planet, yet they are not prepared to stop illegal mining, so we are making a stand.
“If the police decide to arrest us, they will be acting without probable cause and against their own interests as they are the ones who will have to rescue people from the floods and the fires – is this what we really want? The law of aggravated trespass is quite clear in that it must be obstruction of a lawful activity and it is quite clear that this mine is operating illegally.
“So, the decision will have to be made by the authorities about “Who are the criminals here?””
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