URgent questions are being raised about crucial restoration work at Clydesdale’s eyesore former Scottish Coal sites, amid claims that insurance funds will not cover the costs.
As reported on the Gazette’s front page, local MP David Mundell is already seeking clarification on how restoration work will proceed, now that Scottish Coal has gone.
Environment pressure group Coal Action Scotland (CAS) argued that restoration plans for Clydesdale sites were lagging far behind schedule BEFORE Scottish Coal folded.
Local CAS activist Oliver Munnion, 28, said the main fear was that the pace of remedial work would be further relaxed, epsecially if it appeared that a new buyer or buyers would bring some work back to one or more sites.
He said: “Obviously the focus is on the job losses, but we’ve got to get answers to the question ‘who’s going to clean up the mess?’”
Mr Munnion, a Glespin resident, was “deeply unhappy” that restoration at the Glentaggart site beside the village had ground to a halt even before Scottish Coal went into liquidation.
He claimed that no restoration work had taken place at Glentaggart for a year, and argued that at Broken Cross – “a constant point of contention between Scottish Coal, the council and local residents” – a Scottish Coal plan to build eight wind turbines proved they had never intended to restore it.
The activist also complained that a huge “wasteland” site at Dalquhandy had never been restored, despite closing ten years ago, and argued that insurance bonds will be insufficient to cover the cost of restoration at Mainsill.
Another environment pressure group, the Loose Anti-open cast Network (LAON), said: “If opencast mining is to continue in Scotland, we would like to see the economic viability of each application more vigorously tested than it is now.
“We also like to see the provision of a fully funded Restoration Bond ‘up front’ before any work on any new site starts to prevent new eyesores from being created.”
Friends of the Earth director Dr Richard Dixon said: “In South Lanarkshire people, already suffering from job losses, will clearly want to know what is going to happen next.
“The council is the first body to look to, as its agreement on planning permission with the developers involves insurance bonds that are brought into play if this sort of situation arises.
“This means we need to clarify what bonds exist, and whether the liquidator sees these as an asset to be steered away from restoration.”
He contended that Holyrood had a part to play, saying: “Scottish Ministers also have a role to play, as if for whatever reason this sort of situation cannot be resolved they will have to step in.”
A spokesman for South Lanarkshire Council said Scottish Coal had operated two active surface coal mines in South Lanarkshire – at Mainshill and Broken Cross – before the shutdown.
The spokesman said: “The council currently holds restoration bonds for these sites, which are a form of insurance policy.
“This allows it to draw upon money to pay for the restoration of the site, should the operator default on the restoration obligations.”
However it’s said to be too early to discuss the detail of what bonds are available.