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Opencast deal sought

Christine Bories: Confronted anti-social youths.

NATURAL RESOURCES MINISTER Carl Sargeant today said he would be convening a summit to develop a distinctive Welsh deal on opencast mining.

He highlighted the need to work with key stakeholders to find a way forward that takes proper account of the needs of local communities, the protection of Wales’s landscapes and the jobs the industr y provides.

The Minister also said that he would be undertaking a focussed review of Minerals technical advice note (MTAN 2), specifically in relation to the accumulation and management of bonds.

He said: “The biggest and most emotive problems we now face are a direct result of the actions of a previous UK Government who privatised the coal industry without adequate consideration of the future effects on our communities. This ill-conceived, market driven policy has wrought uncertainty and environmental blight on our communities, with the financial bonding provisions to restore sites in several cases being shamefully inadequate.”

The Minister said a key focus of the review would be to ensure that during the course of an operation there is not a liability greater than the value of the bond at any given time, thus avoiding funding shortfalls in relation to restoration costs.

Carl Sargeant said: “I have met with the Coal Authority who are already supporting three local planning authorities. Their help has resulted in an increase in the value of bonds held. I will be asking them to prepare further detailed guidance on assessing restoration liabilities, risks and bonding arrangements on active sites.”

The Minister added that he would be acting in the best interest of the public, those directly affected by the coal industry as well as the taxpayer, and called on the UK Government not to shirk its responsibilities in this context.

“The flawed business model that has resulted directly from privatisation is now apparent – particularly as the markets for coal have declined,” he said.