Ffos-y-Fran: Council backtracks over mine legal action

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A council leader has apologised after suggesting his authority was set to take legal action against the operator of an opencast mine for failing to pay towards restoring the land.

In June, Merthyr South Wales Ltd was ordered to pay £5.6m towards the cost of restoring the Ffos-y-Fran site.

The deadline for payment was 27 July.

Merthyr council leader Kevin O'Neill previously said the council was "in the process of initiating" legal action but now confirmed it was not the case.

"The Ffos-Y-Fran case is an ongoing issue that I have received regular briefings on," he said.

Referring to an email he had sent on the issue, he added: "I can see that my wording may suggest that these are new proceedings, however this is not the case and I would like to apologise unreservedly.

"It was never my intention to mislead."

Opencast operators pay money into an escrow account usually held by the local planning authority. The money is then used to pay towards restoring the land when mining has finished.

Mining is due to end in Ffos-y-Fran in 2022 by which time there should be £15m in the escrow fund, made up from quarterly payments of £625,000.

A previous High Court hearing was told that total restoration costs had been estimated at about £62m.

media captionJust how big is Ffos-y-Fran?

Two large opencast sites, East Pit in the upper Amman Valley and Margam, have been left unrestored.

The High Court hearing in June was told that Merthyr South Wales Ltd, then Blackstone South Wales Ltd, was trying to "wriggle out" of its obligations to restore the site once mining had ceased in 2022.

The company had unsuccessfully argued there was an agreement they could pay the whole £15m at the end of the process.

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