Miller Argent welcomes £12m Aberthaw investment

Neil Brown Neil Brown said thousands of jobs could be safeguarded

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The firm behind plans for a large opencast mine at the top of the Rhymney Valley has welcomed a major investment by a key customer for its coal.

Miller Argent already supplies substantial quantities of fuel to the coal-fired Aberthaw power station from its existing Ffos y Fran opencast site.

RWE Generation is to spend £12m, which should secure Aberthaw's long term future.

Miller Argent said it would be "enormously beneficial" to jobs.

Last October, the company applied to Caerphilly council for planning permission for surface mining at nearby Nant Llesg to meet demand from Aberthaw and other customers such as Tata Steel's Port Talbot plant.

Miller Argent plans to open another operation at Nant Llesg to meet the high demand for its coal

But it has sparked protests locally.

Opponents have also questioned whether new EU pollution laws coming into force in 2016 could force Aberthaw to close - damaging the business case for the new mine.

But an announcement by Aberthaw's owners of investment designed to cut the plant's emissions and secure its long-term future has been welcomed by Miller Argent.

Miller Argent told BBC Radio Wales' Eye On Wales programme that its plans for opencast mining at the Nant Llesg site at the top of the Rhymney Valley would create up to 200 jobs over the projected 15 years of operations.

It would see the restoration of large areas despoiled by earlier mining activity.

Protest Campaigners have protested against the opencast mine plans

But opponents of the plans fear that dust, noise and vibration from the proposed mine could blight the nearby communities of Rhymney, Pontlottyn and Fochriw.

A cosmetics firm operating close to the boundary of the site has said it may have to move manufacturing away from the area should the mine be given the go-ahead.

Campaigners have also questioned the business case for the mine, suggesting that the Industrial Emissions Directive - a new EU pollution law coming into force in 2016 - could force the closure of Aberthaw power station.

Terry Evans, chairman of the United Valleys Action Group, said: "Coal is an old-fashioned, dirty, polluting fuel.

"Countries are slowing stopping using it. With Nant Llesg, the uncertainty of Aberthaw has got to be taken into account. They may not be there in three years' time."

Last week, Aberthaw's operators announced the first stage in an investment programme designed to cut the plant's emissions to levels acceptable to the EU and secure the plant's long-term future.

RWE Generation said its decision to spend £12m on fitting new boiler technology represented the first step in progressively reducing the plant's nitrogen oxide emissions to the levels required to meet the emissions directive.

Announcing the investment, the company's Roger Miesen said: "This is a really positive step to secure the future of Aberthaw Power Station beyond 2016, keeping our options open.

"It is a positive signal for jobs in Wales and across the Welsh mining community.

"However there is still more to understand regarding the longer term future of the power plant."

Miller Argent's managing director Neil Brown told BBC Radio Wales: "We are delighted by RWE nPower's announcement of investment into the Aberthaw power plant.

"We feel that this investment will be enormously beneficial in south Wales safeguarding thousands of jobs, and we look forward to completion of the works.

"Aberthaw are looking to invest millions of pounds. That investment will have them burning coal well into the late 2020s."

Eye on Wales is on BBC Radio Wales at 13:30 BST on Sunday 6 July.

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