Restoration starts at Wrekin mine

Huntington Lane mine
Image caption Mining at the Huntington Lane site started in November 2010, employing at its height 50 people, mainly from the local area. It closed in June 2013, six months early.
Old mine workings
Image caption UK Coal said one of the reasons for the shortfall in production was the number of historical mines in the area, which not only took time to clear, but also had extracted much of the coal. This mine dating to early 20th Century was about five metres wide.
Old mine shaft
Image caption Some of the deep mines dated back to the 1850s. This 20m deep shaft, which had not been filled in and only capped with bricks, was just a metre down from the surface.
Wrekin view
Image caption Local residents Warwick and Carole France, who campaigned against the mine, moved into the area 12 years ago, partly due to the "peace and quiet and beautiful views". This was their view before mining started.
Wrekin view
Image caption Once work began, the couple let a hedge grow to mask mining. The hedge was cut back on Tuesday to show this view, after topsoil had been replaced and, in some sections, pasture land had regrown.
Image caption Some campaigners were worried about wildlife around the mine, but said some animals, including deer had remained despite the work. UK Coal said much of the wildlife had retreated to the wood
Huntington Lane mine
Image caption Heavy machinery, along with site offices and the maintenance yard are expected to be removed in the coming weeks. Replacing topsoil could be completed within a fortnight depending on the weather

Work has started on restoring countryside around an open cast coal mine in Shropshire.

UK Coal's site on Huntington Lane, near The Wrekin hill closed in June, six months ahead of schedule and less than three years after mining started.

But plans to restore it before the end of the year have been hampered by the weather.

Local campaigners said the disruption had been far less than expected.

"I remember the day the decision came through I just sobbed uncontrollably. I just couldn't believe it was actually going ahead," local resident Carole France said.

"I was so upset I couldn't believe they were going to destroy such a beautiful area.

"I've always said I would never admit this, but it actually wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be."

Mining started at Huntington Lane in November 2010, with early operations hampered by a protest camp.

Since then UK Coal has dug up to a depth of 26m, although rocks extracted to reach the coal seam have now been replaced.

Historical mines

In much of the 80 hectare (200 acre) site, separated by a protected woodland, soils have been returned and in a few, pastureland has been planted.

"The whole site is within a metre [deep] of the finished article," site manager Derek Harrison said.

"We're so close to finishing, but it's weather dependent."

UK Coal has until June 2014 to restore the excavated land before another of its teams moves in to lay hedgerows, plant trees, as well as complete footpaths and bridleways.

The operations finished earlier than expected, with UK Coal recovering only 836,000 tonnes of coal, rather than the predicted 900,000 tonnes.

Mr Harrison said the shortfall was partly due to the number of deep mines in the area, some dating back to the 1850s and none of which were recorded.

"It's a bit disappointing. But I think we can be confident we have got what there is to recover. It's still a lot of coal from a relatively small site," he said.

"I'm sure they [local people] will be keen to see the back of us and return the site to its former use."

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