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Opencast coal in Scotland could be halted

December 17, 2014 5:06 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Reports that production at almost all of Scotland's opencast coal mines could grind to a halt next year has led to a warning that the devastation caused by the failing industry could blight the countryside for decades.

This week shares in Hargreaves fell by 14% after a trading update as coal prices have fallen dramatically this year. Only last year Hargreaves took over mines after the collapse of ATH and Scottish Coal.

Willie Rennie MSP, who has been a vocal critic of the Scottish Government's policy for the industry, called for urgent action to ensure that Scotland is not left with a restoration burden of almost £200 million and a blighted countryside. He will make the call at the Scottish Government's Coal Industry Taskforce which meets on Tuesday.

On Friday Hargreaves said the company will "monitor coal price and selectively target production." It operates sites in Fife, Lanarkshire, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway.

Mr Rennie, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said:

"I am angry that despite repeated warnings we are facing another crisis in the opencast coal sector in Scotland. We need urgent action to prevent an environmental crisis that could cost us all dear.

"With the collapse of the coal price we are facing a halt in production in Scotland that could leave us with a legacy of polluted water, barren land, a blighted landscape and a health and safety headache.

"The Scottish Government's cavalier approach to the industry has failed the environment and local communities. Instead of recklessly promoting the exploitation of new opencast mines they should have focused on a plan to restore the failed sites that are already blighting our countryside.

"I will be urging action at the Scottish Coal Industry Taskforce which meets this week. The Scottish Government needs an urgent environmental restoration plan."