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RSPB Scotland seeks reassurances that opencast coal mine restoration will happen

Last modified: 05 July 2013

Loading truck, St Aidens opencast coal mine

Image: Andy Hay

Hargreaves Services plc today announced that it has completed a move to take over certain assets from the former Scottish Coal company. 

Scottish Coal was the largest opencast coal operator in Scotland but recently went into administration, leaving behind a legacy of opencast sites where there was insufficient funding to deliver restoration that had been promised.   Many of these sites are in important areas for wildlife. 

Hargreaves has now agreed to pick up some of these sites and to carry out restoration.  This is good news for many of those who will be employed by Hargreaves, and potentially for wildlife at these sites.  However, RSPB Scotland has asked for clear commitment to deliver the restoration that was promised.

Hargreaves has also announced that it intends to pursue windfarm projects on some of the sites.

Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development for RSPB Scotland said:  “It is very welcome that some jobs will be safeguarded and some opencast coal mine restoration work will be undertaken as a result of Hargreaves announcement.  However, given the problems that happened previously with Scottish Coal, we need clear guarantees that restoration will actually happen.  This industry has let us down badly in the past, with revelations that restoration bonds were 10s of millions short of what was needed, and we are far from convinced that this will not happen again.  We have previously called for an inquiry into how the industry and local authorities got this so badly wrong and we hope this will be taken up.  We need to learn from these past mistakes.

“We are also far from convinced that many of these sites will be suitable for windfarm development.  Of course we need to develop windfarms to reduce our dependence on climate change causing coal but, like any development, windfarms must be located to avoid harming wildlife.  It would be incredibly daft to cause even more environmental damage by building a windfarm on a site which has already been damaged by opencast coal activity”.

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