Coal Action: Opencast Mining Communities
These stories. Us people. Solidarity.
Opencast Coal Mining and Communities
Communities from Russia, Colombia and the UK share their experiences of living with opencast coal mines, through this exhibition of artefacts, photos and poems, curated by the Coal Action Network.
This collection shows glimpses of how everyday lives and cultures are upturned by opencast mining and how people gather strength to try to stop the destruction of homes, communities and land.
"This exhibition is important as it helps opens people's eyes to what is going on across the world; be it a small welsh village like mine or a desert region in Colombia. These places may mean nothing to the global coal companies but to the local people they mean the world. This exhibition gives a voice to all these small campaigns and brings our voices together. Those voices then become louder and shout together in one voice NO OPENCAST NOT NOW NOT EVER”
Eddy Blance, United Valleys Action Group, 2020
Coal Action Network
Coal Action Network works alongside communities in Russia, Colombia and the UK who are resisting the expansion of opencast coal mines in their regions. Our approach to climate justice is to amplifying the voices and demands of those on the front line of fossil fuel extraction. We do this through campaigning and bringing togther different groups affected by opencast in different places of the world. There needs to be an end to opencast coal mining and there needs to be justice for communities, workers and the land. Climate change, environmental justice and economic justice are one fight.
Opencast coal extraction in the UK began during the second world war, permitted as an emergency war measure. These measures were never revoked. The number of opencasts in the UK grew in the 1980s and 1990s as the deep pit mines were closed. Unlike deep pit mining, coal from opencast is cheaper as it employs a fraction of the workers and uses heavy machinery to make a big hole to get the coal out quick. In the case of the Cerrejon mine in Colombia, the hole is 30km long and 5km wide.
When communities and the NUM in the UK were fighting to keep the pits open, communities in Colombia were forced to respond to the sudden arrival of a multinational coal company in their ancestral territories. In 1981, the same year the Easington colliery in County Durham closed, 827 Wayuu people were forced from their lands to make way for the Cerrejon mine, in La Guajira peninsula, North East Colombia. The guaranteed supply of cheaper Colombian opencast coal aided Thatcher´s Government in ending the British deep coal mining industry.
Coal Use Today
In 2018, 15% of coal used in the UK was from opencast mines in South Wales and North East England, such as Ffos-yFran and Banks mine in the Pont Valley. The remaining 85% is imported, coming from Russia (46%), USA (35%) and Colombia (6%).
For more information and news about communities resisting opencast coal companies visit:
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