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Flood Fears At Abandoned West Fife Opencast Mines

22 Sep 2013 - Ally McRoberts

Flood fears at abandoned West Fife opencast mines

ALEX ROWLEY will “demand assurances” to ensure that the three abandoned opencast mines in West Fife are properly restored.

The Fife Council leader is concerned the impact of financial ruin at ATH Resources and Scottish Coal will leave ugly holes in the landscape.

There are also flooding fears at St Ninians in Kelty and Blair House at Oakley, while the cost of pumping polluted water from Muirdean, at Crossgates, has reached £30,000 a week.

There is more than £14million in bonds to cover restoration work at the three sites but Councillor Rowley, who met the Scottish Coal Industry Task Force last week, said it might not be enough and a solution was needed now.

He said, "There is a lot of local concern around the future of various opencast coal sites in Fife and a real loss of confidence in the coal industry since the collapse of Scottish Coal and ATH Resources.

"I want to reassure residents that we're doing everything we can to help address concerns around individual sites and make it very clear that we will continue to demand assurances from the industry that proper restoration will be carried out."

There is an £8.5m bond – essentially an insurance policy – to cover restoration at Muirdean, which had been operated by ATH Resources.

But the site is also the greatest concern as ferrous water from the historic underground mineworkings has been discharging onto the site and must be pumped 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

This is costing £30,000 a week.

The Scottish Mines Restoration Trust has offered £60,000 to help with costs and discussions are continuing with partners, including the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), to manage the ongoing pumping costs.

Cllr Rowley previously expressed concerns that, given some 600 acres had been worked at Muirdean, there was no sign of any restoration work having even started.

On the plus side, the council said moves to restore the site were "progressing" and that 15 companies had expressed an interest in the work.
Most of Scottish Coal's old site at St Ninians has been taken over by mining company Hargreaves but the company has not taken on the responsibility for the opencast element.

This has been put into the ownership of a separate company that will look to extract around 70,000 tonnes of coal.
The council said discussions were ongoing and there was a £2.8m restoration bond plus a £180,000 maintenance bond for the land art project.

After mothballing the Blair House mine, Scottish Coal had made a commitment to re-start in March next year.

There is a £3.1m bond but the council is pushing for an earlier start to restoration work as a "matter of urgency" to address flooding problems and ensure the site is complete as soon as possible.

Cllr Rowley is also worried that planning permission is in place for opencast mining at Loch Fitty, which would involve draining the loch, and an extension at Muirdean, although final approval is dependent on a legal agreement being reached.
The council's West planning committee is due to discuss an application from Hargreaves about future mining activity at Loch Fitty, near Kingseat, and he said, "There is no room for complacency around these issues.

"Our position on any future applications for mining in Fife is very clear in that we will continue to demand assurances from developers on restoration of sites and we have made clear that we would expect restoration bonds to be put in place as an insurance policy to protect the local environment and local communities.

"Our communities deserve no less."