Magistrates in Merthyr Tydfil sentenced five activists from Earth First! and Reclaim the Power to pay £10,000 to coal company Miller Argent. All five pleaded guilty to Aggravated Trespass for their part in an action which seriously disrupted work at Ffos-y-fran opencast coal mine, the largest in the UK, on the 21st of April. 

They were sentenced to eighteen months conditional discharge, ordered to pay compensation to Miller Argent and £525 to the court on the 8th of May. 

Three protesters, one of whom was dressed as a canary, entered the mine in the early hours of Friday the 21st of April. They locked to an excavator in the middle of the deep pit and stayed on the vehicle for 10.5 hours before being removed by police. No coal mining took place all day.

Meanwhile, a private road in the mine complex, which leads to the rail head terminal, was blocked for eight hours by two people attached with bike locks and arm tubes to a cattle grid. This prevented HGV access and coal being transported out of the mine to the train terminal.

“As local communities continue to suffer, and as we are approaching runaway climate change, Miller Argent continues mining at Ffos-y-fran, causing ecological destruction and health impacts under the name of ‘land reclamation’. Ffos-y-fran showcases the failures of environmental regulation in the UK and the court’s decision favours corporate power over public interests,” said Andrea Brock, who was arrested on the day.

The action was taken to prevent the local and global impacts of coal mining and to demand closure of the mine. The United Nations Special Rapporteur On Human Rights & Toxics has called for an investigation into health problems in the communities surrounding Ffos-y-fran, following a visit to the area. Until recently, Ffos-y-fran has been sending coal to Aberthaw, the UK’s dirtiest power station.

Miller Argent’s response to media coverage of this action was the first time the local community had heard that Ffos-y-fran is not currently supplying Aberthaw. This has led to calls from local people for Miller Argent to withdraw its application to mine a further six million tonnes of coal from nearby Nant Llesg.

Terry Evans, Chair United Valleys Action Group said: “If Aberthaw is not burning coal from the existing mine at Ffos-y-fran, then how can Miller Argent keep going with its application to mine at Nant Llesg? We demand that Miller Argent withdraw its appeal of the council’s decision against mining at Nant Llesg.

“This would give those of us who live in Rhymney and surrounding areas peace of mind, knowing that there won’t be an increase of the highly destructive opencast cast coal mining in the area.”

Hilda Williams, whose house Yglwyd overlooks Nant Llesg, added that “Those of us who live here see the black coal dust outside every day – we are breathing this in constantly. Add to that the dangerous invisible pollutants from the power stations, and it’s clear this industry is toxic for local communities, in Wales and globally.

“I stand in solidarity with global communities affected by UK coal-fired power – RWE must stop sourcing coal from Wales, and must not subject other communities to these impacts.”

On hearing of the sentencing Rick Felgate commented that “The heavy nature of this sentence feels like a collusion between the court and Miller Argent to protect corporate profits at the expense of tackling climate change.

“This is a political move to intimidate and silence protesters. The decision shows that Miller Argent and the wider establishment are clearly alarmed by the growing resistance. We cannot be deterred and this only shows the urgency of our movement to escalate.”