Unsafe coal sites a ‘daily reminder of exploited past’ for Welsh communities, says Sioned Williams MS

Plaid Cymru urges the UK Government to pay towards making hundreds of tips and former open cast mines safe, such as East Pit in Tairgwaith, Neath Port Talbot

An image showing the map of the region around East Pit in Tairgwaith

Recent data (November 2023) reveals there are 350 unsafe coal tips across 14 Welsh local authorities areas, an increase of over 50 since 2021 due to the rapidly changing climate.

41 of these are in Neath Port Talbot, 42 are in Bridgend local authority, and 5 in the area covered by Swansea City council – a region that includes over 900 disused tips.

The information was collected by the Coal Tips Safety Taskforce, established after a landslip at a disused coal tip in Tylorstown, Rhondda Cynon Taf, in February 2020. 

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru Member of Senedd for South Wales West, has said that the environmental hazards left by mining and quarrying are the legacy of the country’s industrial history which predates devolution, and causes anxiety for nearby communities, such as those living near East Pit in Tairgwaith.

In a motion to be debated in the Senedd today (Wednesday 8 May 2024), Plaid Cymru has called upon the Labour Welsh Government to introduce legislation to effectively monitor tips and former open cast sites, ensure preventative work to avert danger and remedial work to reduce existing risks.

Plaid Cymru has also urged the UK Government to urgently provide funding for the inspection and maintenance regime and to bear the long-term costs of making coal tips, former open cast mines, and other former industrial sites safe.

Sioned Williams MS, Plaid Cymru Member of Senedd for South Wales West, said:

“Neath Port Talbot bears the scars of centuries of coal mining and quarrying. These are not just scars in the landscape but the environmental hazards left behind have scared communities. The children of Godre’r-graig, in the Swansea valley, have had to be educated in portacabins in a school miles away from their village since 2019, due to the council's assessment of the risk of the quarry spoil tip to their village school. This has caused heartbreak in the community. 

“These scars are also evident in the anxiety caused from living near disused tips, open cast mines and other post-industrial sites. I can attest to the fact from meeting with residents who live near East Pit in Tairgwaith, that this anxiety is real, weighs heavy on communities, and is unacceptable.”

Plaid Cymru spokesperson for Climate Change, Delyth Jewell MS said:

“Welsh people deserve to feel safe in their homes and it is both astonishing and beyond all reason that Westminster still refuses to pay towards making these sites safe. Our coal made rich people in London richer, but all our communities were left with was the coal tips that litter our mountains: the gilts of dirt and dust. We in Plaid Cymru demand that Westminster must urgently pay towards making these tips and former industrial sites safe.”

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