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‘Ffos-Y-Fran Four’ charges dropped after ‘illegal coal mine’ fails to cooperate with court

24 Feb 2024 3 minute read
XR activist at Ffos y Fran

The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped all charges against four activists who blockaded the entrance to the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine last summer.

While removing the immediate burden of legal confrontation for the defendants, who are members of Extinction Rebellion (XR), the decision has left a “crater of unfinished business” in the fight for climate justice and accountability for local residents according to the campaign group.

“The action was always designed to have a much deeper impact beyond the immediate disruption with a pink boat,” explained Liz Pendleton, one of the four defendants who occupied the site for over 24 hours in July 2023.

“It was designed to expose the alleged illegal activities and environmental negligence of the mining operation, in particular, its continued operation beyond permitted planning conditions and contradictory and misleading financial statements which may well constitute fraud.”

Direct action

The Ffos-Y-Fran mine in Merthyr Tydfil had been operating without a licence for almost ten months when XR activists decided to take direct action.

Liz added: “By denying us our day in court the CPS has denied us the opportunity to shine a light on this potentially illegal and criminal operation.”

According to a representative from XR, the legal proceedings revealed a lack of cooperation from the mine, including failure to provide basic operational logs, communications between the mine and governmental bodies, and internal documents relating to the financial and environmental management of the mine’s operations.

They say that this critical information would have shed light on the legal position of the operation and whether funds had been set aside for environmental restoration – which was a condition for the getting the go ahead in the face of overwhelming local opposition. The defendants were confident this would have led to their acquittal.

“Shaky foundation”

The discontinuation of charges is a testament to the strength of the activists case and the shaky foundation upon which the mine’s operations stood, explained Raj Chada from Hodge Jones & Allen, representing the defendants.

He said: “In seeking disclosure from the CPS, we highlighted the need for transparency on several critical points. Our requests were aimed at uncovering potential evidence of the mine operating beyond legal scrutiny, which raises concerns about the legality of its operations. The CPS’s inability to meet these disclosure obligations casts a shadow over the proceedings and suggests that the depth of the mine’s legal and environmental mismanagement may be greater than previously understood.”

Extinction Rebellion protestors display a banner at Ffos-y-frân opencast mine in Merthyr Tydfil

Upon hearing the news, local resident and defendant Marcus Bailie commented: “Our fight was not just against the physical act of coal extraction but against disregard for the land’s future and the community’s well-being.

“The piles of coal and the colossal scar on the landscape left behind serve as stark reminders of the environmental impact that has yet to be addressed.

“The real victory would have been to hold those responsible to account in a public forum, forcing a reckoning with the consequences of their actions.” Marcus went on to say, “We’re not the criminals here!”

Chris and Alyson Austin, residents of Merthyr Tydfil who have been campaigning for years for the mine to be closed said: “We feel angry and betrayed about the waste-land they have left behind.”


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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
1 month ago

This is disgraceful! The cps has basically allowed the operators of the Ffos-Y-Fran mine to get away with criminal activity!

They should have been made to provide the necessary information for the case to go ahead or face further legal consequences (such as jail sentences).

Sikejsudjek
Sikejsudjek
1 month ago

Bet they won’t be stopping coal in China while we have our industry closed down…

Stupid Comment
Stupid Comment
1 month ago
Reply to  Sikejsudjek

would you prefer Chinese people to protest here while these protesters go to China????

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