South East Wales

Opencast plan for Tower Colliery site in Hirwaun

Tower Colliery at Hirwaun
Mining ceased at Tower Colliery, the last deep pit in Wales, in 2008

Plans have been submitted for an opencast mine at the site of the last deep pit in Wales.

Tower Colliery near Hirwaun closed in 2008 but around 6m tonnes of anthracite remain untapped.

Tyrone O'Sullivan, the man who led the successful workers' buyout of the mine when it faced closure in 1994, is behind the idea.

An application has been submitted to Rhondda Cynon Taf council and is likely to be considered later in the year.

It is estimated the opencast operation would last for around seven years after which landscaping and remedial work would take place.

The coal would be extracted from a depth of down to 165m, and is on the 480-acre (195 hectares) old washery site, and the opencast will be 200 acres (80 hectares) in size.

It would be transported by train to Aberthaw power station in the Vale of Glamorgan.

The site is still owned by the 280 directors - former miners - of Tower colliery.

Mr O'Sullivan said the directors saw the scheme as a legacy project for the area, with waste from the opencast mining being used to strengthen iron workings below.

He said: "We would love to have worked it as an ordinary deep mine, to extend the life and all the skills of the workforce at Tower [colliery], but it's too shallow for that, so it'll be opencasted.

"It's a very exciting time. This is the one chance we can have of taking the coal out, using that to secure the iron workings that's below as well.

"Then we would have a site perfect for a redevelopment programme, which I think is very exciting for jobs, housing, tourism, leisure and a retail park.

"It's something we can bring to the valleys - new jobs, modern jobs for Wales - that we desperately need."

He said he expected opposition to the opencast plan but not from people in the locality.

"We will have some objections. I don't believe the people of Hirwaun, Rhigos and Penywaun [will object] because they have lived next to a huge coal heap for 200 years, really," he said.

The council said the application, which is accompanied by an environmental statement, is unlikely to be considered before November.

A spokesman said consultation had been carried out and, although the deadline for responses was Thursday, anyone interested in making comments both for and against could continue to do so until the application went before its development control committee.

Tower Colliery was bought by 239 miners in 1995, who pooled their £8,000 redundancy money to raise £2m, a year after it was closed down.

Experts warned them that their plan would not work, but it remained open for 13 years.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites