Friday, 9 October 2009

Leave it in the ground!

There's a community near Lanark in Scotland that has been opposing plans for an opencast mine at Mainshill Wood for the last few years. With four other mines in the area, I read that it's one of the heaviest mined areas in Europe and also happens to have the highest rates of cancer in Scotland.
In solidarity with the local people, anti-coal protesters have been camping on the proposed site since the summer. (
As well as the wonderful wildlife here that will be wiped out: deer, badgers, rabbits, bats, owls, pheasants, and some stoat-like creatures I couldn't identify (!), there's also a large lake at the bottom of the site. When you read up on opencast mining pollution and how sulphur in coal gets exposed to the air and rainwater, leaching a toxic mix into waterways, it seems unbelievable that the plans could even get permission.
Another sad thing is to look at the horizon. The hills rise and fall gently in the distance, until you suddenly see a flat table-top where a mine has been made and there's nothing but grey, stepped rubble. More lovely hills, then the next dead space
But what is lovely to see here, is the great relationship between local people and those camping in the tree-houses, tents and tunnels. As many local people are elderly or have children, they are only too glad to support people willing to sleep rough in the woods! They bring donated food, warm clothes, tarpaulins, tools for building defences against the excavators. They also fill water containers since Scottish Water closed off the mains pipe across the land.
At the moment, efforts are being made to stop or at least slow the tree-felling there as once this is completed, the way is open to the bulldozers and then mining can begin. (Didn't have my camera, so here's a sketch of the site being cleared)
People (that i think are amazingly brave!) are prepared to stay high up in the trees and down in tunnels to stop this going ahead. It's all about costing the company enough money to mean it's no longer economically viable as a project.
It's easy to get despondent about facing up to powerful corporations (in this case, Scottish Coal) but when you see how E-ON has backed down from expanding Kingsnorth power station, that's a real inspiration to environmental protesters to keep up the pressure. Sure, E-ON claim it's the recession that has put their plans on hold, but the huge and expensive disruption to their operations over the last couple of years must have taken their toll. They haven't been able to attend a single trade fair without actions taking place, a sustained campaign of protests and, thanks to Climate Camp, a raised awareness of their environmentally damaging plans. I had my doubts about the effectiveness of the coming Climate Swoop at Ratcliffe-on-Soar, but now I'm pretty damn sure this may have helped their decision to drop Kingsnorth - for the time being at least.
I hope the people of Mainshill take heart from this and see that ordinary people can take on giant corporations - and win!

No comments: