Posts Tagged ‘Ffos-Y-Fran’

NantLlesg_towardpond

Today myself and 9 comrades met a UN Special Rapporteur on Hazardous Substances and Waste and impacts of pollution and also a lady who is UN Special Rapporteur to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights.

It was an excellent meeting that lasted for two and a half hours and could’ve gone on longer. We really can talk for hours about our 10 year fight against Miller Argent Ffos Y Fran opencast and the proposed and failed application to remove the mountaintop and quarry Nant Llesg.

I think we overwhelmed them with information and they were very shocked.

Which is both good and bad isn’t it?

The lady who answers to the UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights said:

“What we are hearing from you is more like what we are familiar with in “developing countries” apart from an absence of violence against the protesters.

Says it all really doesn’t it?

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Ok, here goes. This is going to be a long post, bear with me.

If you aren’t ANGERED by this, you aren’t paying ATTENTION.

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This is what we at United Valleys Action Group with the help of Merthyr Tydfil Branch Merthyr Tydfil Friends of the Earth and other organisations have found, as well as public domain search at Company’s House and input from well respected national journalists including George Monbiot.
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Firstly on December 23rd, a company, Miller Argent (South Wales) Ltd applied to the UK government Planning Inspectorate (PINS) in Cardiff to put up a 5KM fence around Nant Llesg upper moorland (near Fochriw) even though it is COMMON LAND,
they are also trying to take away PUBLIC RIGHTS of Way on land that has a SCHEDULED ANCIENT MONUMENT.
they are also launching an appeal against the CCBC planning hearing decision on August 4th 2015, to turn down the opencast mining of Nant Llesg.
This is a three pronged application and it has swamped those that want to protect and Save Nant Llesg from destruction and loss of amenities with highly technical paperwork.
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Let me remind you of what happened last August:
Remember these words from councillor Ken James, Caerphilly county borough council’s cabinet member with responsibility for planning, he said:

“The outcome signals the conclusion of one of the most complex and in-depth planning applications that our planning committee has ever had to consider.”

“Ultimately, our planning committee had to make a judgement, and it voted to reject the proposal on the grounds of visual impact. I would reiterate however, that this decision was taken following a thorough, lengthy and in-depth planning process.”

Then remember these direct THREATS from Miller Argent CEO Neil Brown who wrote to Caerphilly councillors threatening to try to recover “substantial” costs from our financially vulnerable council if they voted down the mine!

http://www.scribd.com/doc/273706328/Miller-Argent-letter-to-Caerphilly-council-regarding-a-new-opencast-coal-mine
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OK, so the advert was then run again by M-A’s representatives in the Rhymney Valley & Merthyr Express on New Years day and United Valleys Action Group committee met and decided to mobilise community objections. (Objection form attached below.)

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This is the United Valleys Action Group prepared copy of the objection letter to the proposed works and fencing off of common land around Gelligaer / Merthyr common.

You do not have to live locally to object against this…
THIS IS A UK-WIDE planning enquiry run by a UK Government Quango.
Please print out the document and fill in your objections.
Must arrive at the Planning Inspectorate by 27th January 2016.

On January 7th we found out that a new company Gwent Investments Ltd (G.I Ltd) had registered paperwork with Company’s House registering the sale & transfer of 10.4 Millions shares from the partnership holding company Miller Argent Holdings which is a company where 50% of shares were owned by MILLER MINING LIMITED of Edinburgh & 50% by ARGENT ESTATES LIMITED.
The shares are nominally priced at 1penny valuing the total transfer of shares at just £104,000.
Allegedly the primary financial backers of Argent Estates, BT Pensions & Hermes have disinvested from coal mining and fossil fuel extraction?

We searched Company’s House and G.I Ltd is registered at Llanover House in Pontypridd where a further TWO HUNDRED & TEN businesses claim to have an address there.
The company has not registered any accounts and we can find only two directors according to April 2015 Annual Returns.
One of those Directors was responsible for purchasing Maes Manor hotel for just £520,000 leaving £1.2million and £92.5k owing to various creditors and businesses who got NOTHING.
That Director then left G.I Ltd and became Director of the hotel. (http://ow.ly/XfhWC)

But this company now seems to be nominally the owners of the parent company of both Miller Argent (Ffos Y Fran) Ltd and of Miller Argent (South Wales) Ltd.
Numerous phone calls have been made to MTCBC and Merthyr councillors but they deny knowledge even though all this information is in the public domain and can be found within seconds.
Why the secrecy?
Why has no councillor investigated this evidence and asked the questions and replied with answers to concerned residents?
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So far, 15,800+ people have read about our worse fears over what has happened to the operators of Ffos – Y – Fran via the “Loose Anti Opencasting Network” and a message to George Monbiot.
 

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United Valleys Action Group have grave fears over whether Ffos-Y-Fran Opencast restoration well ever take place, the restoration bond was not money in an Escro account, it was an agreed amount of cash in 2007 and was vociferously fought at the time as being a ludicrously low amount.
The Guardian report in April 2015 written by George Monbiot, have put the restoration costs closer to £165 Million!
And Stephen Leary of the Loose AntiOpencast Network stated this site has DISASTER written all over it and contributes to the #WelshMineRestorationCrisis seen in Margam, Parc Slip and East pit in the Neath/Port Talbot county where the Serious Fraud Office investigated the actions of Celtic Energy.
The SFO ended up with a legal bill of £6Million!

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I state again, All of the above information is in the Public Domain.
Why have our leaders and local media sources failed to properly INFORM the Council Tax Payers of Merthyr Tydfil county borough and Caerphilly county borough?
Why has this new opencast gone to a UK Government appeal?
Why has Carl Sargeant AM Welsh Labour politician and the Minister for Natural Resources in Welsh Government remained quiet when he has been repeatedly asked to explain?

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To add to the above!

The appeal process submitted to the PINS had links to an email chain which showed a PR company were pressuring two executives of Brecon Beacons National Park into REMOVING their objections to the Nant Llesg opencast mining project!

This is effectively holding a gun to the head of the neighbouring authority at Penallta Ystrad Mynach, and undermining the democratic planning decision!

Please consider copying and pasting the BELOW to Brecon Beacons National Park Facebook page. Thank You.
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Brecon Beacons National Park please DO NOT CONSIDER removing your objections to the proposed Nant Llesg opencast by Miller Mining Ltd of Edinburgh and the destruction of 478HECTARES of important and ancient Upper Moorland, home to four endangered species of wax cap fungus providing the foundation blocks of the invertebrate food chain that many of the rare migrating birds and other rare fauna are dependant upon.
This would be ecocide on a HUGE scale and YOUR executives would be responsible! Help United Valleys Action Group not a PR company based in London representing a Mining company from Scotland who do not care about this important Welsh habitat!
#SaveNantLlesg Common
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Here is the George Monbiot report from April 2015.
 
An abandoned HOLE IN THE GROUND like the ones in Margam and at Parc Slip and at East Pit in Neath / Port Talbot, are a price WE pay for limited liability companies!
 
Why should the people who own and run these companies be allowed to walk away with £££millions in ill-gotten profits from the mineral extraction and exploitation of Merthyr Tydfil?
While shrugging off the costs they leave behind in some of the POOREST REGIONS in Northern Europe – i.e. MERTHYR AND RHYMNEY!
 
Limited liability is one of our social silences: a giant gift to corporations and FAT CATS!
 
Who will pay the £165million (estimate last year) to restore Ffos-Y-Fran opencast in the next years to come, described to the World during the Great Britain road race (with Bradley Wiggins) as “resembling the stygian wasteland of MORDOR”.
 
“They scar the land and scarper!” – Ian Pritchard.

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Hermes and BT Pension fund managers were Argent’s main investors, their main financial backers. And BT Pensions has DIS-invested from fossil fuels, it’s in their annual report from the AGM.

M-A’re up shit creek. And Merthyr people will be left with a massive hole to fill costing many many tens of £££Millions from their council tax and massive cuts to existing amenities which are already run on a shoe string and cut to bare bones.

When they go down, they will take Merthyr Borough down.
It’s that serious. Why would RCT combine with a county in that much trouble?

The coal they sell now is held artificially high by Aberthaw owners RWE, who will dump this as soon as Aberthaw is decommissioned in just a couple of years. But the trains are dwindling going down the valley on the Treharris line.

This will be a disaster that makes Parc Slip and Margam look like a minor incident. It’s another chapter of the awful disaster of the Welsh opencast mines remediation scandal.

There is a Welsh Assembly Government vote in May, heads MUST roll!

It doesn’t take much to find things out if you can be bothered to look, the residents of Fochriw, Pontlottyn and Rhymney have the right idea.

They fight it all the way, Merthyr didn’t need this OCS ( opencast site ) the council couldn’t afford to fight it in the courts any longer , people forget to ask WHY was it called-in by the Welsh Assembly, As it progressed it was the council who had to pay all the court costs, both Miller-Argent’s and its own.

Originally the only thing the people of Merthyr were going to receive was a one off payment of £1million and a swimming pool.
Well now we could still end up with a dirty stinking big pool the way its going!
The community pot was supposed to be £1 per tonne. This was virtually emptied by MTCBC raiding it so they could pay the court costs, organisations such as Tydfil Autism Support Group TASG got nothing.
Yes, some individuals have benefitted from Ffos-Y-Fran, while the majority living in its stygian shadow have suffered.

Soon we ALL could be paying for this blight on the landscape for generations to come.
It will undoubtedly cost in excess of the ludicrous £15,000,000 to restore, even were it to close tomorrow and it isn’t as easy to put it back as it is take it out!
The money and jobs promised never came to fruition
Highly paid and local labour was the promise!
Is that why I’ve seen people from Llanelli, Pontypool, Newport, DEVON, etc, etc there?
What’s the rate for machine operators?

One of the last engagements for Dai Havard MP was announcing Miller Argent were the first employer in Merthyr to guarantee a Living Wage!
Yeah, £10p.h for skilled operatives if you were lucky!

STOP SIX MILLION TONNE OPENCAST AT NANT LLESG

A blog by my friends in Friends Of The Earth – Merthyr Tydfil Branch

https://t.co/RXRwDAquRK

 

A Hole in the System

The outrageous, untold story of how big business dumps its costs on us.- By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29th April 2015

Wrapped up in this story is everything that’s wrong with the way our economy works. Corporations ream the land with giant holes, extract a stack of money, then clear out, leaving other people with the costs. There’s a briefer description: legalised theft.

The-Ffos-y-fran-coalmine-009

This is an account, scarcely mentioned in the national media, of the massive unfunded liabilities emerging from coalfields throughout Britain, that opencast mining companies have been allowed to walk away from.

It’s comparable in terms of irresponsibility to the failure by the nuclear industry to fund its decommissioning costs. And it offers a solid argument, even to those who continue to reject climate science, for keeping fossil fuels in the ground.

As I write, Neath-Port Talbot Council in South Wales is considering a new application for an opencast coal mine. The mine is unpopular, but its proponents argue that it’s necessary. Why?

Because only by digging a new pit, they say, can the money be made to fill in an old one. How could this be true, when millions of tonnes of coal have been extracted? Where did the money go? You think you are inured to the worst of British politics? Read on.

When British Coal was privatised by John Major’s government in 1994, the company that took over in South Wales, Celtic Energy, was granted a 10-year exemption from paying a restoration bond, in return for offering a slightly higher price for the assets. That higher price disappeared into national accounts, doubtless in the form of one of Mr Major’s tax cuts for the rich.

After 10 years, the exemption expired, and Celtic Energy had to start putting up a decommissioning fund.

At East Pit, where the application for new mining is now being considered, the bond now stands at around £4m, while the restoration is likely to cost about £115m.

At another vast pit, Margam, near Bridgend, there is £5.7m in the kitty – against an estimated restoration cost of £56m.

In 2010 Celtic Energy sold the land rights, and the liabilities, at East Pit, Margam and two other mines, to a company in the British Virgin Islands called Oak Regeneration, for £1 per mine. Oak Regeneration then passed the liabilities to Pine Regeneration, Beech Regeneration and Ash Regeneration, none of which appear to have the assets required for restoration. Five senior executives at Celtic Energy walked away with benefits worth more than £10m.

The people involved in this transfer, including two directors of Celtic Energy and the former chief executive of Cardiff City Council, were charged with fraud. But last year the judge threw out the case, saying that, while some might regard their actions as “dishonest” or “reprehensible”, they were not illegal.

So all that is left, the opencasters argue, is to dig more holes. It’s like the old woman who swallowed a fly.

In a paper commissioned by the Welsh government, I was struck by the mention of the Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine, on which I reported in 2007. This pit was justified as a “restoration scheme”, which would remove the old adits, shafts and spoil heaps left behind by deep mining. Local people were sceptical: one of them told me “you don’t go down 600ft and blast 5 days a week to reclaim an area.”

But the report finds that the bond laid down by Ffos-y-fran’s operators, £15m, “falls well short of a worst case restoration cost which could be in excess of £50m”.

The “restoration scheme”, this suggests, cannot fund its own restoration.

In some cases, villages and towns find themselves perched on the edge of sheer drops, overlooking running black sores sometimes hundreds of metres wide.

At Margam, for example, the pit is some 2km across and, according to the latest estimate I’ve seen, the water gathering there is 88m deep. In East Ayrshire, in Scotland, 22 giant voids have been abandoned by their operators. Restoration work there would cost £161m, but just £28m has been set aside. As the local MP explained, “they are so large they cannot be effectively secured from trespass… unstable head walls and extremely deep water bodies with vertical drop-offs make for dangerous playgrounds.”

An independent report found that the collection of restoration bonds by East Ayrshire Council officials was “wholly deficient and defective”, while the failure to appoint independent assessors was “completely inexplicable”. While officials took their eye off the ball, East Ayrshire councillors took gifts and hospitality from the coal operators, including a trip to watch Celtic play Barcelona in Spain, premier league tickets, lavish meals, food hampers and nights in hotels. When the two companies running the pits went bust, the council was left in a gigantic hole.

Nationwide, the unfunded liabilities counted so far amount to £469m. That’s likely to be just the beginning.

This is a price we pay for limited liability. Why should the people who own and run these companies be allowed to walk away with millions, while shrugging off the costs they leave behind? Limited liability is one of our social silences: a giant gift to corporations that we won’t even discuss.

And why are we digging coal anyway, when we cannot afford to burn it? Climate breakdown is the greatest unfunded liability of all, for which future generations will have to pay.

Yet in 2013, the latest year for which figures are available, the amount of coal for which companies in Britain have permission to dig rose from 12m tonnes to 24m.

Eight new opencast pits were approved in that year, and only three rejected. In which parallel universe is this compatible with the commitment to limit climate change?

Last week, lost in the election turmoil, the Welsh Senedd did something remarkable. It voted, by 30 votes to zero, for a moratorium on opencast coal mining. With the Welsh ban on fracking, this could have meant that Wales was the first nation on earth to keep its fossil fuels in the ground.

But the Welsh government refused to accept the decision, using the restoration argument. Past crimes are used to justify new ones.

Fire and forget: that’s the psychopathic business model we confront, and the forgetting is assisted by the press and political leaders.

To them, the victims are non-people, the ruined landscapes non-places. All that counts is the money.

www.monbiot.com