Site of New UK Coal Open Cast Mine Occupied in Fife - Black Wood solidarity camp update

Update below...
22nd March 2010: last night twenty five activists occupied the site of the Blair House Open Cast Coal Site in solidarity with near-by communities and in direct intervention of the environmental destruction that it will cause. Contractors have been felling trees on the site over the past week, and activists have moved in to stop this work and put an end to UK Coal's plans for mining the Black Wood Wildlife site.

This occupation is the second occupation of a UK Coal site in two weeks. The Defend Huntington Lane camp in Shropshire has been stopping work and felling for nearly two weeks now [1]. This occupation comes two months after the eviction of the Mainshill Solidarity Camp in South Lanarkshire, where 45 arrests were made in an eviction that lasted 5 days [2].

UK Coal have been given permission by Fife Council to mine 720,000 tonnes of coal from the site, a decision that disregarded the wishes of local residents. Nearly 150 people objected to the planning application for this site and there were no letters of support. The Council, in their defence, wouldn't dare refuse another open cast coal mine application after their refusal of ATH Resources mine at Muir Dean on the insistence of Crossgates residents, was overturned by the government and cost them financially.

The planning process was designed to slip the mine past the majority of people living near it. As an example, the neighbour notification for the mine only included residents living within 90 metres of the site boundary, which only really involved notifying a few Oakley residents living opposite the site entrance.

Impacts on nearby communities will include noise, dust, HGV movements, impact on the landscape, ecology, and loss of recreation access. The Solidarity Camp stands in support of nearby residents opposing this mine and the inevitable other mines that will be applied for by profit-hungry UK Coal.

The site is ecologically diverse and home to a population of Great Crested Newts, a European Protected Specie, the Black Wood Wildlife site, designated as an area that once had ancient woodland and is now home to birch forests and oak trees, orchids, breeding birds and wintering birds, bats, red squirrels and Brown hares, listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The Cowstrandburn river will be diverted and undoubtedly polluted, along with other watercourses in the area.

Some 2.11 million tonnes of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere from the combustion of the coal, with more still being released from the mining process. None of this will be captured and stored. New coal mines such as this one undermine the governments plans to reduce Scotland's CO2 emissions and highlight the hypocrisy of government ministers and local councils when it comes to reducing emissions.

Fiona Richards, one of the people currently occupying the site said, “This new coal mine is only one of 20 such others to have recently been given planning permission in Scotland. If we are to have any chance of limiting dangerous climate change and protecting communities from carbon-intensive industries, direct action must be taken as councillors, mining companies and the government have shown their unwillingness to solve the problems we face.”

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Support for Black Wood Solidarity Camp needed - ancient woodland being felled
The woodland was occupied last Sunday as 25 activists blocked and barricaded the access road using a scaffolding tripod, and took to the trees putting up nets, platforms and treehouses.
Despite the occupation, contractors have continued to fell the birch and oak forest, with occupiers having to watch a huge oak being felled metres from the camp. The sound of chainsaws and machinery surrounds the occupied woodland, with the forested area getting smaller and smaller each day, despite the close proximity to dwellings, tents and tree defences. Support and numbers are needed at the camp.

Meanwhile, local support for the camp is growing with near-by residents who opposed plans for the mine visiting the camp and offering their support. Other visitors have included ever-increasing ranks of police officers, including Glasgow’s V-Division, the tactical support unit, who went around with a spotter card and video camera. There is still a permanent police “checkpoint” before the entrance to the camp, but they’re quite friendly and might even offer to drive you to the bus stop if you’re lucky.

Looking out over the Firth of Forth from the site, over countryside, old coal bings and mining communities, the Longannet smokestack looms in the distance. ScottishPower’s Longannet coal-fired power station is the second largest in the UK and the destination for the coal from this site. Due to be “refurbished”, this is the largest source of CO2 emissions in Scotland and a testament to an archaic and dangerous energy supply.

For as long as places like Longannet burn coal, whether in Fife, South Lanarkshire or in Colombia, communities will have their health impacted, their land stolen and their environment trashed. The world’s ecosystems will continue to collapse and species extinction will continue to spiral out of control. Unless, that is, we make a stand. This occupation is the second occupation of a UK Coal site in two weeks – and such direct action, rooted in community struggle, offers the only glimpse of hope that we have of stopping the wholesale destruction of the planet.

Black Wood Solidarity Camp