Tyne & Wear

'Arrests delay work' at Dipton opencast mine

Dipton opencast mine protest Image copyright Simone J Rudolphi
Image caption Renewed protests focussed on work to create a new access road

Four people have been arrested after a road was blockaded at the site of an opencast coal mine, police said.

Officers were called to the Banks opencast site near Dipton, County Durham, on Saturday after reports protesters were "locked" to a vehicle.

A man and a woman were arrested on suspicion of obstructing a highway and two men are being held on suspicion of assisting an offender.

Protesters believe the work will damage the environment and harm wildlife.

Durham Police said firefighters helped cut free protesters and work at the site had to be halted for several hours.

A spokeswoman for the force said: "The road is currently open, however a traffic management system will remain in place to allow the work to be completed."

In April, protestors tied themselves to trees and hid in underground tunnels claiming the mine would damage wildlife and the environment.

Dozens of protesters returned to the site at the weekend after it was confirmed extraction work had begun.

Image caption In April, protesters scaled trees and hid in underground tunnels

A spokeswoman for the protesters said: "We've campaigned for 30 years to keep this area free of opencast extraction for the sake of our health and environment. If Banks think we're giving up now, they've got another thing coming."

Banks Group said the project would create 30 jobs.

A company spokesman said: "Site operations are scheduled to run for between two and three years, with all on site activity complete in 2021.

"Restoration will include the creation of new woodland and a nature reserve area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use."

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