Coal Action: Opencast Mining Communities

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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:




Dave was a Legend

Dave Green was a life-long activist who continued to fight until the end. He was suffering from terminal cancer during this protest. Since his death, he continues to come to every meeting of the United Valleys Action Group – a small urn of Dave’s ashes is always there.

Photograph by Nigel Pugh

Death of the Valleys March

The community response to Miller Argent’s proposal for an opencast at Nant, Llesg, near Merythr Tydfil, South Wales. People had already been living with the disruption and loss of land from Ffos-y-Fran when this new application was made.

Photograph by Nigel Pugh

Ffos-y-Fran Opencast Coal Mine

The nearest homes are 40m away. Local residents live with pollution, dust, noise and vibration for 15 hours a day. In 2017 the UN Special Rapporteur called for an inquiry into the health impact of the opencast, after the government failed to respond to complaints.

Photograph by Eddy Blanche

Nant Llesg

The view looking from Fochriw Mynydd across the Nant Llesg common.

“I’ve had a new granddaughter born three weeks ago – when she gets to 10, and walks up on that common, shes either going to see an opencast mine or she’s going to see a beautiful green field.”

Photograph and quote by Eddy Blanche

I’m local, I care

“I don’t want this opencast because this is a place I grew up in and I want my children to enjoy this place. We should be moving away from coal. We have tried to stop this. We have written so many letters. We are getting doors closed. We are running out of options. So it feels like we have no other choice but to take direct action.” Robyn Clogg.

Photograph by Simone Rudolphi


Tracy Gillman, alongside her neighbours, has been fighting this opencast for 25 years. Durham County Council refused planning permission on 3 different occasions but the coal company finally won at an appeal. Tracy is active in the campaign including being part of occupying the land to try and prevent Banks Group from extracting the coal from under it.

Photograph by Simone Rudolphi

Changing Views

This photo was taken from June’s bedroom window after the start of the opencast in the Pont Valley. Her former peaceful calming walks in the valley are now filled with the noise and dust of diggers, and she carries a notebook and camera to document any planning infractions.

Photograph by June Davison

Durham Miners Gala

“The Durham Miners’ Association has opposed opencast mining for many decades and support the locally lead campaign to protect Pont Valley. It damaged deep mining in the past and now threatens to ruin our environment for no perceivable benefit. Our communities have suffered enough with the decline of the coal industry and they do not need to have more injury added to insult.” Alan Cummings, Durham Miners Association Secretary, May 2018.

Photograph by Simone Rudolphi

Size of Kuruya Village

One of the Shor Villages that was destroyed to make way for Sibirginsky Opencast Mine, Southern Siberia.

Photograph by Sally Low

Alexander Myzhakov

Alexander lived in Kurya village as a child. When it was destroyed, he and his family moved to Chuvashka.

Photograph by Sally Low

New mountains

The view from Valentina’s window dominated by the waste heap from a mine.

Photograph by Sally Low

Local Food

“Due to the destruction of the surrounding land and forest, it is no longer possible to collect kolba, berries and pine nuts from the surrounding area which used to be a traditional Shor way of gathering food.”

Photograph by Sally Low

Nubia Maria Floria Ditta

Nubia is a member of La Sierra Community Council. They have been trying to get legal protection of their common land to stop the mine. In 2015 Drummond was granted the permission to expand the mining zone up to the edge of her village.

Photograph by Scarlet Hall

Nubia’s Allotment

“As a child when I wasn’t at school I went every day to the farm where my grandparents grew sugar cane, plantain, and cassava. All we took was salt and a pot to cook lunch in. The companies talk about voluntary displacement, but it is forced displacement… It is as if we are a field of cows that they can move around.”

Photograph by Scarlet Hall

A sharp near silence of the absence of life

“I stumble up the waste of the mine.
Clumps of coal – buried sunshine – sit on the slope
no insects, birds or plants have any interest being here
no hummingbirds buzzing about, no lizard darts across the hot rocks
just a sharp near silence of the absence of life”

Photograph and Text by Scarlet Hall


On August 9, 2001 the Colombian state carried out a violent eviction of the village of Tabaco, bulldozing homes, to make way for the expansion of the Carrejon Coal Mine. Cerrejon is owned by the BHP Biliton, Angelo American and Glencore. The community has still not been relocated or compensated.

Photograph by author unknown

Roche – a shadow village

“Tabaco psychologically affected us and people began to sell up for whatever price to company was offering. Cerrejón took advantage of the fear to buy the land for next to nothing and people had to leave.”

Roche has now been wiped off the map by the huge Cerrajón mine.

Photograph by Scarlet Hall

These stories. Us People. Solidarity

Left to right: Rosa (Colombian human rights lawyer), Misael (Wayuu indigenous leader from Colombia), Diane (London Mining Network), Scarlet (Coal Action Network), Aldo (President of Sintracarbon the National Coal Workers Union of Colombia), Anne (Coal Action Network), Isobel (Coal Action Network), June (Campaign to Protect Pont Valley), Suzie (Campaign to Protect Pont Valley)

Photo by Rich Felgate

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