South East Wales

Cosmetics firm threatens move over mine plans for Nant Llesg

An opencast mine worker
Image caption The majority of the coal produced at Ffos-y-Fran and Nant Lesg would be used to power Tata Steel's plant in Port Talbot and RWE's Aberthaw Power Station in the Vale of Glamorgan

The operator of Wales' largest opencast mine has submitted plans for a new site but a neighbouring firm said it would be forced to relocate.

Miller Argent said the surface coal mine in the Rhymney Valley would provide up to 239 full-time jobs.

If the scheme is backed the company said it would invest nearly £13m annually in the site.

But cosmetics firm Richards & Appleby said it would move its manufacturing department if the mine came into use.

It said it was concerned coal dust at the Nant Llesg site could contaminate production.

Around 1,000 people work in the coal industry in Wales, the majority in opencast mines like Ffos-y-Fran in Merthyr Tydfil.

Miller Argent already employs 200 staff at Ffos-y-Fran which is Wales' largest.

But there has been opposition to the proposals for Nant Llesg, with campaigners claiming the legacy of the opencast mine would last considerably longer than its planned 14-year life.

Mitchell Field, managing director of Rhymney cosmetics company Richards & Appleby which neighbours the planned mine in Rhymney, employs 140 people and supplies products to the likes of Harrods, Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and Selfridges, and exports to 60 countries.

He said if the opencast mine went ahead then the manufacturing part of his business, employing 90 staff, would have to relocate.

Mr Mitchell said the manufacture of a new cosmetics range from actress Joan Collins had already switched to Italy over fears coal dust could contaminate make-up and face cream production in the future.

"We've been aware of the plans for about 18 months but it's disappointing that the plans have now been submitted," added Mr Field, who said other businesses and residents in the area were opposed to the mine plans.

"New work on a Joan Collins product range has already gone to Italy and that would have created 70 jobs. The distribution will still be carried out here. We can bring the work back here at any time but at the moment we can't take the risk.

'Turn back the clock'

"It simply wouldn't be suitable to have dust polluting the products. Joan Collins is a major product for us and we can't afford recalls, it could wreck a brand.

"We came here originally because of the good air and water quality. It's madness to turn back the clock and return to mining in an area you have already regenerated."

The majority of the coal produced at Ffos-y-Fran and Nant Llesg would be used to power Tata Steel's plant in Port Talbot and RWE's Aberthaw Power Station in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Neil Brown, Miller Argent's managing director, said: "We are pleased to be able to announce that after an extensive period of investigations and consultation, we have now submitted our planning application for a new surface coal mine at Nant Llesg.

"Nant Llesg would provide further significant investment in the area, along with job creation and training opportunities, and we would look to work with local communities to ensure these are, as far as possible, filled by local people."

Mr Brown said the company had held "extensive discussions" with council officers, councillors, the local community and local businesses, and the feedback had resulted in significant changes to its proposals.

Plans for Nant Llesg, north of Fochriw and west of Rhymney, have been submitted to Caerphilly council. Subject to planning permission, work on the project could begin next year.

A public exhibition will be held later this autumn for people to examine the final plans.

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