Dodds: Aberpergwm Coal Mine Expansion Must be Stopped

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have reiterated their opposition to the expansion of Aberpergwm Coal Mine in Neath Port Talbot Council. Addressing a protest in front of the Senedd Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds stated that if we are to stand any hope of tackling climate change before it’s too late, the coal must be left in the ground.

A protest yesterday in front of the Senedd in Cardiff saw multiple Welsh climate groups attend.

The expansion of Aberpergwm Coal Mine has been at the centre of a row between the UK and Welsh Governments, with the Welsh Government claiming it does not have the legal authority to block the mine’s expansion, while the UK Coal Authority has insisted that the Welsh Government could in fact stop the development.

The new license, which was approved by the Coal Authority in January will allow Aberpergwm Mine to extract another forty million tonnes of coal. The development could release up to 1.17 million tonnes of very strong greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Jane Dodds said:

It is absolutely ludicrous that in the middle of a climate emergency we are considering expanding coal mining in Wales. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are absolutely clear, coal should be left in the ground. 2050 is no longer in the distant future.

While our opponents will try and paint us as being against job creation this is absolutely not the case. We believe the people of Glynneath deserve high-skilled future-proof jobs, not ones in a declining industry that will last only a decade at most.

Cardiff Lib Dem Leader Rhys Taylor and Jane Dodds

With plans to move steelworks in the UK to Green Hydrogen by the mid-2030s, we are calling on the Welsh and UK Governments to locate some of its Green Hydrogen projects in Glynneath, bringing long term employment to the community and ensuring no one is left without a job as industries begin to change.

While the Welsh Government’s powers over this affair remain unclear, one thing for certain is the UK Government could veto the development if it wished to do so. Just months after claiming a big win at COP26 on the issue of coal mining, Boris Johnson needs to put his money where his mouth is or risk undermining both the UKs climate goals and its global leadership on the green agenda.

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  • The mine produces “high-grade” anthracite. This is used in steelmaking and other metallurgical processes.

    We don’t currently have a viable green alternative. (Scrap can be used in steelmaking, but there’s not nearly enough to replace metallurgical coal.)

    There’s a worldwide shortage of metallurgical coal with attendant price rises. And a knock on effect on prices of steel etc.

    I’m against any mining of thermal coal, but not metallurgical coal.

  • Jenny Barnes 17th Mar '22 - 2:23pm

    “We don’t currently have a viable green alternative” [to anthracite for steel making]

    That depends on who exactly “we” are. Humanity does. Hybrit, a Swedish steel manufacturer, makes steel using green hydrogen.

    So “we” should invest in that technology, rather than adding to the destruction of our home.

  • Chris Moore 17th Mar '22 - 4:17pm

    Hello Jenny,

    I’m well aware of the research into green steel production. It’s a vital step forward for the environment.

    The article makes absolutely clear that this is a pilot project, hoping to move to commercial production by 2026. They may or may not get there. Usually, new production methods take longer than expected to come on line.

    Production on a scale to produce a significant percentage of steel greenly will take much longer. 10 years? 15 years?

    In the meantime, “humanity” still needs steel and other metals. Yes, shock horror, humanity still needs metallurgical coal. The blessed UK still needs metallurgical coal. Much better to buy it locally rather than shipping the stuff from somewhere far away. Not very green that.

    Should “we” be investing in Hybrit? Depends who you mean by “we”. If you mean, you and I, I prefer less green sky investments. They have such a high failure rate. If “we” means a government, I’d be surprised if Hybrit doesn’t benefit from research grants.

  • @Chris Moore – The blessed UK still needs metallurgical coal. Much better to buy it locally rather than shipping the stuff from somewhere far away. Not very green that.

    Well, given both the European and global overcapacity in steel production, there is a big question mark over whether the UK should be adding to that. Additionally, coal isn’t the only ingredient necessary for steel production that the UK imports.

    However, in saying that, things are complicated as the UK does seem to have a good special steels industry, which probably would benefit from some local sourcing, particularly if we are going to invest massively in nuclear for electricity generation…

  • Tristan Ward 17th Mar '22 - 8:27pm

    We should probably not forget the “net” in “net zero” here.

    Granted, ways of extracting CO2 from rhe atmosphere over and above photosynthesis and storing it securely are just as undeveloped, but I frankly can’t see a way of preventing unacceptable climate change that is politically achievable othwrwise

  • Chris Moore 17th Mar '22 - 8:49pm

    Hello Roland,

    I was delighted to get past your first paragraph to discover you’re not in fact advocating shutting down what remains of the UK steel industry.

    Whilst we have a steel industry, the UK will need metallurgical coal, until a viable alternative is developed. We can either mine it here or import it.

    But let’s suppose the steel industry folds in the UK – steel will still be consumed large-scale here; and it will still be manufactured with coking coal till that green alternative really is viable.

    So certainly we can play at being impeccably green, wax indignant about a metallurgical coal mine in Wales, then import the stuff from abroad.

    Worse for the environment overall. But at least the local pollution issues are outsourced to another country where they are invisible to the environmentally engaged.

  • @Chris Moore – Thankyou for reading.

    >“So certainly we can play at being impeccably green…”
    Agree this is an issue. I see it with much ‘green’ technology: eCars might not have the exhaust emissions of ICE cars but they have other impacts, which we have yet to resolve. Wind turbines, putting aside the construction, have a limited life, and are now beginning to create large quantities of end-of-life glass fibre composite blades for which currently the only use is landfill. So whilst there is waste from fossil fuels, we do need to pay attention to the waste created by ‘green’ tech.

    Getting the balance right, whilst also reducing total emissions is the challenge for the coming decades.

  • I totally agree, Roland, with your above remarks.

    We have a serious challenge on our hands.

    Popular attention has been focused on “greening” electricity generation and transport.

    But even taking into account the multiple issues with renewables – of which you mention one conundrum – the technological challenge in reducing emissions from the manufacture of construction materials is far more difficult. Likewise emissions from agriculture.

    As for the Welsh mine, instead of populist green posturing, this party (and the others) could actually say something cogent, along the lines of:

    Coal should no longer be used for power generation, because of its high CO2 emissions. However, we remain dependent on metallurgical coal for manufacture of steel and other processes.

    As a party we want to significantly increase government research grants to speed up development of green alternatives to metallurgical coal.

    In the meantime, it’s environmentally better to source our metallurgical coal locally. What’s more we will have higher local environmental standards than metallurgical coal producers in most other countries.

  • Jenny Barnes 18th Mar '22 - 11:42am

    One way of avoiding both the import of coal and opening another coal mine would be to use less steel. There are alternative materials for many applications. As to e-cars, the biggest impact of cars is congestion and intimidating vulnerable road users. I think the future of the car is the electric bicycle.

  • Phil Beesley 18th Mar '22 - 1:23pm

    Jenny Barnes: “One way of avoiding both the import of coal and opening another coal mine would be to use less steel. There are alternative materials for many applications.”

    If the UK does not mine this coal, the world will still use as much steel and it will be smelted using coal derived from less ethical and environmentally respectful sources.

    I have a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Looking around my living room, I can’t see a single big thing (100 grams, four ounces) made from steel which could be replaced by an alternative which is obviously environmentally better.

    My copy of Private Eye contains two metal staples (almost) on the fold line but it would slow production to stitch copies. There are some stupid lids on supermarket candle jars which could easily be swapped for fluted cardboard. Cheap steel shipped from India or China or wherever, irrelevant to steel manufacture in the UK.

    In my kitchen, I have stainless steel items — expensive, lasts for years in mitigation, commonplace products of the British steel industry making specialist steel. Yes, I really did purchase British made products and they’re doing fine.

    I’m being serious about how difficult it is to find stuff where steel could be substituted. If I was really smart, I’d remove steel from the casing for dry cell batteries. A few generations of dry cell battery engineers would remind me how hard they tried.

  • Chris Moore 18th Mar '22 - 3:30pm

    It’s true, Jenny, that there are alternatives for some uses of steel.

    Unfortunately, the alternatives usually can’t nearly match up to steel’s combination of hardness, resistence to wear,cheapness, ease of processing and recylability.

    As I’m sure you’re aware, steel, in that last sense is a very green material. And this is not pie-in-the-sky green fantasy, but established practice with very high recycling rates in the UK and other countries.

    So the way forward is to replace metallurgical coal in steel production, rather than steel itself.

  • James Dalgleish 18th Mar '22 - 10:15pm

    I agree 100%!

    Bloody Thing has to be stopped!

    Whatever it takes!

    Evil Stuff, Coal!

    Keep it in the Ground!

    Fy Neges:

    Mwynfa GLO eto yng Nghwm Nedd????

    Dim Diolch!!!!

    Digon o Fwynfeydd!!!!

    My Message:

    COAL Mine again in Vale of Neath????

    No Thanks!!!!

    Enough Mines!!!!

  • Chris Moore 19th Mar '22 - 7:20am

    To help matters along, James, please stop using steel.

    Give up your car, your computer, your house, your cutlery etc etc etc the list is endless.

    Do you not understand the difference between thermal coal and metallurgical coal?!

    Nimby-ism is not the same as being green.

  • Energy security (as well as food security) is clearly going to be a major issue in the coming decades as we scramble to address the growing threat of climate change.
    We do need a nuanced approach that can bring the bulk of the UK population along with LibDem policy. In the 2015 campaign, LibDems announced we want to ensure that shale gas exploration and production do not have an adverse impact on the environment and are consistent with our efforts to tackle climate change. If the right safeguards are in place fracking and shale gas can have a role in energy supply as part of the transition to a low carbon future, by helping us to cut out ‘dirty coal’ as we develop renewable energy. While the party has rolled back on this policy since (calling for an EU wide ban on fracking in 2019) it may have to be revisited.
    The independent Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has confirmed that with appropriate regulation shale gas production and consumption would not increase and could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Shale gas is the greenest fossil fuel – making only half the carbon footprint of electricity produced by coal. While we develop better renewable and nuclear energy, shale gas provides a cleaner alternative to coal.
    Germany has banned fracking but my also have to revisit that decision. When Germany and Italy buy Russian gas, the hard currency they fork over has its parallels in the hard currency the world paid Stalin in 1933 to buy Ukrainian wheat—as Ukrainians were deliberately starved by the millions.

  • @Joe – helping us to cut out ‘dirty coal’ as we develop renewable energy
    The UK has very little “dirty coal” compared to Germany…

    “If the right safeguards are in place fracking and shale gas can have a role in energy supply as part of the transition to a low carbon future”
    Proven commercially exploitable UK reserves aren’t that great, particularly once you put them against the UK annual consumption of gas. Fracking is more about economic benefit than energy self-sufficiency.

    Shale gas is the greenest fossil fuel
    Pull the other one. North Sea gas is greener.

    We would probably be better off exploiting deep geothermal energy and harnessing that to provide heating instead of burning gas.

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