I was thrilled and proud to take part in the biggest occupation (between 300 and 400 people) of a UK mining operation, that effectively closed down the opencast mining operations for around 12 hours today. It was the first of a series of protests around the world, moving to Germany next week, before moving across at least 4 other continents.
For those wanting to understand more about why it is time to end coal production, check out the Coal Action Network.
Ffos-y-Fran, near Merthyr Tydfil, was selected for the UK protest, as it is the UK’s biggest opencast site, one of the biggest in Europe. It’s pernicious effects on the local environment, local residents and their health has seen locals battling the company responsible, Miller Argent, every step of the way. Their United Valleys Action Group (UVAG)has also successfully organised opposition to another opencast operation nearby at Nant Llesg. This has seen Caerphilly CBC turn down the planning application in an historic decision last year.
The action was planned, co-ordinated and executed brilliantly by the truly inspiring Reclaim the Power team.I saw Reclaim the Power take their first mass action at Balcombe in 2013, but this is the first time I have gotten directly involved in their direct action. To say I have been impressed would be an understatement. Most of the organisers and facilitators are under 30, educated, articulate, passionate people with all the right values. The attention to detail ensures inclusivity, democracy through consensus, health and safety, and quality in everything from food provision (via the awesome Veggies “…probably the best vegan catering outfit on the planet”) to the music (e.g. the brilliant Seize The Day), even down to good local beer in the bar.
The mass trespass proceeded without any real opposition from the mine owners. Mining was suspended and both Police and private security just maintained a watching brief. There was a bit of tension when the local chief inspector briefly attempted to address us and ‘lay the law’ down, but he was simply drowned out and ignored and he pretty much gave it up as a bad job. There was never a whiff of aggression from anybody and even though those more agile than me clambered all over the big machines, everyone was very careful to do no damage, and in fact, with conscious efforts to clear not just our own litter, but to clear flytipping and other rubbish from across the common, I am confident that the whole area will be left cleaner and tidier than when we arrived. Full marks, once again, to Reclaim The Power for actually having that as a stated objective.
I’ll finish with a selection of links to media coverage of the weekend – which at the end of the day is the main purpose of such direct action – to put the issues before the public gaze and to raise awareness of the issues.
- BBC News
- ITV News
- The Guardian
- The Ecologist
- South Wales Argus
- Caerphilly Observer
- Energy Voice
- RTP flickr album