Coal companies accused of “reneging on responsibilities” to local communities

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   By a Newsnet reporter

Following the collapse of Scottish Coal and Aardvark TMC Ltd, taxpayers could be left with a bill of up to £62 million to cover the costs of clean up and land restoration at the companies’ open cast mines in East Ayrshire.

Coal companies are legally obliged to place bonds with the local authority in order to pay for clean up and restoration costs, however it has been revealed that the bonds will not cover the likely costs.

KPMG, who were called in to act as liquidators for the companies, estimate that the total cost of restoring the land will be “in the region of £48m to £90m”.  However the value of the bonds held by the local authority is only £16.1m for Scottish Coal sites and £11.52m for Aardvark sites, leaving a potential shortfall of between £20m and £62m. 

East Ayrshire Council leader, SNP councillor Douglas Reid, said the companies had “reneged on their responsibilities” to restore the land to its former condition and to remove the waste left by decades of coal extraction.

Mr Reid said:

“The coal operators have failed to live up to their responsibilities and East Ayrshire Council will leave no stone unturned in minimising the effect of this situation on our communities and on the council itself.”

“I welcome the chief executive’s proposal to independently review all of the procedures around the management, determination, implementation and monitoring of the planning processes in relation to opencast coal operations within East Ayrshire.”

He added: “We must, however, never lose sight of the fact that it was the responsibility of the coal companies to clean up behind themselves and restore their land – they didn’t do this and they have reneged on their responsibilities to our communities.”

Yesterday the Scottish Greens urged the Energy Minister to make sure that communities which have been affected by opencast coal mining in Scotland must be represented on the new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, which has been set up following the collapse of Scottish Coal.

The Greens believe this is vital as they claim that coal companies have a “terrible record” on meeting their responsibilities to local communities and to the environment.