North East coal clash

Proposals for an opencast mine next to Northumberland's Druridge Bay undermine national climate commitments, as well as local ecology and public health

Sandy Irvine

The Age of Coal isn't over yet: like some zombie, the coal industry still fights on. A critical front in the UK is happening right next to Northumberland's beautiful Druridge Bay. Banks Mining is seeking to extract at least three million tonnes of coal from a new opencast mine right next to the beach.

Earlier this year, Northumberland County Council approved the proposal. Labour councillors strongly voiced their support. Such has been the strength of opposition to this destructive scheme, however, that there will now be a public inquiry. It will be a vital battle since victory for objectors will very much reduce the chance of other mines being opened elsewhere.

An Early Day Motion put forward in Parliament by Caroline Lucas MP summed up the case against the scheme: it 'undermines our national and international climate commitments, and will impact negatively on local wildlife, tourism and public health'.

A broad umbrella campaign group called 'Save Druridge Bay' has done sterling work to build opposition to the mine, with a number of rallies at the beach amongst campaign activities. It included an excellent video viewable at: National Green Party figures such as Natalie Bennett, including while she was Leader, and Energy Spokesperson Andrew Cooper, have also been prominent in the campaign.

The North East region of the Green Party submitted its formal objection to the forthcoming inquiry. It not only condemned the folly of more coal mining, but also stressed positive alternatives such as the expansion of sensitively- planned and appropriately-located renewable energy. It proposed that the string of nature reserves already in the area could become a world-class example of biodiversity action planning and highlighted that 'wildlife tourism' and other compatible recreational opportunities could provide long-term jobs, unlike short-lived opencast mining.