Page last updated at 13:36 GMT, Thursday, 13 August 2009 14:36 UK

Climate protest at opencast mine


The campaigners say it is a "peaceful camp" which is supported by local people who are against the Ffos-y-Fran site.

Climate change campaigners have set up camp near a controversial opencast mine to hold three days of protest.

Work to mine 10m tonnes of coal over 17 years from Ffos-y-Fran, a hilly site overlooking Merthyr Tydfil, began in June 2007 after a public inquiry.

Climate Camp Cymru said around 100 people were there with "hundreds" more expected over the next couple of days.

South Wales Police said they aimed to balance campaigners' right to protest with the mine's right to operate.

Ffos-y-Fran is to become one of Europe's biggest opencast mining sites despite numerous court battles, a public inquiry, petitions and protests.

These people are lovely people and they are coming here with their children - they are worried about climate change
Resident Terry Evans

The assembly government has announced guidance recommending that new coal mines should be built more than 500m (1,640ft) away from homes in the future.

But it does not plan to make the regulations retrospective for Ffos-y-Fran, where the closest houses are about 40m (132ft) away from the site and there are schools and a nursery nearby.

Climate Camp Cymru said the coal "should be left in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change".

Siobhan Ashe, 33, one of the camp organisers who also described herself as a "concerned mother", said she believed the UK government and the Welsh assembly government needed to take action and not just set targets.

She said around 100 people were already at the camp but many more were expected on Friday and over the weekend.

"There are individuals and there's quite a few families. There's a kids' area with a climbing frame and storytelling," she said.

Terry Evans has taken pictures of what he believes to be dust from the mine

"People are getting on with their individual jobs of setting up the camp. The kitchen team are cooking a great big lunch for everybody on the site."

She said there would also be workshops starting on Friday which would focus on green issues.

Alyson Austin, who lives about 400m from the mine with her husband and two children, said: "I think it's absolutely fantastic. I will be going.

"I've been fighting the social injustice of the mine for over five years now.

"During that time, you come to realise it's not only a social injustice but a climate injustice as well.

"We simply cannot be going down this path any longer if we're serious about tackling climate change.

"The message now has to come from the people. We can't rely on the politicians to do this job for us."

Terry Evans, who also lives near from the site, said he would be leafleting his neighbours to say the climate camp was a good thing and the people arriving over the next three days were friendly.

The climate camp
Hundreds of campaigners are expected at the site

He said: "These people are lovely people and they are coming here with their children. They are worried about climate change."

In a statement, Climate Camp Cymru said the protest site was only 36m away from the edge of the mine - the same distance as several homes.

South Wales Police said they were working with the parties involved to ensure safety.

A spokeswoman said: "We have a responsibility to safeguard the right to peaceful protest and a responsibility to safeguard the rights of individuals to carry out their lawful business.

"We must balance these responsibilities to ensure a proportionate police response."

Stephen Tillman, joint managing director of Miller Argent, the company which runs Ffos-y-Fran, said: "They are quite free and able to protest and no-one is going to stop them as long as it remains lawful."

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