Supplementary memorandum submitted by
Miller Argent (South Wales) Limited
Q133 Albert Owen: Mr Poyner, you said in your
submission: "diversification has got to be the order of the
day" and "I wholeheartedly support a balanced, mixed
energy portfolio". How big do you think the role of coal
should be in that portfolio?
In my response to Question 133, I made reference
to a projected "Generation Gap" that I stated will occur
if no new power stations are introduced. I highlighted that 22
GW of power generation will come off stream between now and the
year 2015. I now wish to add that that generation gap will increase
to 29 GW if the existing AGR Stations do not get a life extension
and if my projection of 1% growth demand actually increases to
1.5% per annum.
To fill that "Generation Gap" we need
to build on average new generating capacity of 2.5 GW every year
between now and 2015. This programme is already too late for nuclear
to contribute (first new build unlikely to be on line until 2016)
and the Gap is far too large for renewables. Therefore it is vital
that we start new build and retrofit to existing coal plant now.
Lack of government action will inevitably result
in a dominance of gas generation and will lead to a further "dash
for gas", as gas stations will be the only stations that
could be built quickly, regardless of costs and consequence.
If Government wants to favour gas then all it
has to do is procrastinate.
Renewable energy sources must be developed further
and indeed research and development needs to be accelerated, but
in my view Wind is portrayed by some commentators to contribute
much more than it realistically does and in fact can. This is
very unfair to the Wind Power Industry as sooner or later they
will be called to account and despite their valued contribution
they will be measured to have failed miserably against the political
aspirations that were not necessarily ever achievable.
1.3 In the latest DTI publication "UK
Energy in Brief 2006" it records that renewables in total
accounted for 4.2% of energy generated in the UK in 2005 and that
Wind contributed only 5.9% of that 4.2%in other words Wind
only contributed 0.25% of the total power generated in the UK.
Q159 Mr David Jones: Why should different
considerations arise from site to site?
On reading my answer to Question 159 I regret
that I omitted to mention a further consideration, which is extremely
important when addressing the point of buffer zones and that is:
if the proposed scheme involves the removal of dereliction and/or
dangers due to past underground workings etc. ie land stabilisation,
then separation distances are not relevant, but the impacts are
to be assessed on a case by case basis to judge the benefits and
the potential impacts. This is precisely what exists in Scotland.
Miller Argent has a copy letter from the Scottish Executive which
states that where the clearance of derelict or despoiled land
is the case then the recommended separation distance does not
1.5 Paragraph 32 of the draft COAL M TAN
(January 2006) makes express provision for this wherein it states:
Coal extraction may always be permitted for reasons
of health and safety; or for the stabilisation of shallow mine
workings or mine waste for ground remediation associated with
built development or infrastructure, where coal extraction is
the most sustainable option and meets the tests in MPPW.
Miller Argent wish to support the preservation
of ancient woodland and can demonstrate their sincerity in this
respect by referring to its own planning application for the Ffos-y-fran
Land Reclamation Scheme, where it adjusted its application boundary
from that promoted by the local mineral authority in order to
preserve the ancient woodland at Cwm Golau. This principle should
also be applied to areas of high archaeological value.
Most opencast coal mines adopt a working methodology
that incorporates "progressive restoration": it does
not make economic sense to do otherwise. This provides for the
worked out areas of the site to be restored as new areas are being
worked. Please see the following simplistic schematic sketch to
illustrate the methodology.
An advantage of the above working methodology
is that the people most affected by the works at the start of
the job are the ones who first reap the benefit of the restored
Very often, as is the case at the Ffos-y-fran
Land Reclamation Scheme, there is a deficit of soils on surface
that are needed for the restoration works. By opencasting it is
possible to recover buried soils and to recover soil making material,
which can then be used in the restoration of the site. It is estimated
in the case of Ffos-y-fran that to restore the site without mining
would require approximately 1.5 million tonnes of soil to be importedwhich
is just not physically or financially possible.
My general impression was that the two representatives
of PACT were actually giving evidence of objection to a specific
project namely that of Margam Parc Slip rather than addressing
the issue of Energy in Wales in general and opencast coal in particular.
I have no personal knowledge of this particular project nor do
I think it appropriate for me to comment on the specifics of it
in the context of the Welsh Affairs Committee's inquiry into Energy
Notwithstanding the above, The PACT representatives
made general reference to some issues that do impact on the Welsh
Opencast Coal Industry, namely:
In their answer to Question 192 PACT seem to
suggest that the Opencast Coal Industry is not part of the Welsh
Coal Industry, clearly this is wrong. Opencast has always been
a part of the Coal Industry in the UK and the fact that British
Coal was privatised at the end of 1994 has no bearing on that
whatsoever. All coal activities in the UK whether deep mined or
surface mined are now carried out by private companies as opposed
to nationalised companies.
PACT suggests that the coal industry in Wales
died out in the 1980s, which is also patently incorrect.
In their answer to Question 197 PACT state that:
"Nuisance dust is not the problem but there is no legislation
at all for small particulates below PM10s".
Ambient concentrations of Fine Particulate matter
(PM10) are covered by the Air Quality (Wales) Regulations 2000.
The national air quality objectives (in the AQ
Regulations) are (a) annual mean of 40 micro g/m3, and (b) 50micro
g/m3 24-hour mean not to be exceeded more than 35 times in a year.
Air Quality Limit Values Regulations 2003 implement
the European Union's first and second "daughter" directives
on ambient air quality assessment and management. It includes
limit values for PM10.
In their answer to Question 198 and elsewhere
in their evidence, PACT refer to the Newcastle Study, claiming
that a lot of emphasis is put on this study by developers and
that it [the study] tested children for asthma levels.
I would firstly advise that "The Newcastle
Study" is the term used for an epidemiological study carried
out by The Department of Epidemiology and Public Health at the
University of Newcastle upon Tyne. The study was commissioned
jointly by the Department of Health and the DETR and is entitled
"Do particulates from opencast coal mining impair children's
respiratory health?" (the Report). The Report is in fact
the only study in the UK of its kind to concentrate on
the effects from opencast coal mining on health.
Regarding PACT's complaint that the Study is
always being used by developers in response to air quality issues.
The reason for this is quite straightforward and is to be found
at Chapter 1 page 1 item 1.2 of the study report wherein it states:
the fourth aim of the study was to inform the planning process,
through the findings of the study.
The Report studied five pairs of communities:
5 Communities close to operational opencast sites and 5 paired
Control Communities some distance away. The Study and Control
Communities were matched for socio-economic characteristics using
Census data, information on urban/rural mix, the distance from
the coast and geographic data.
The Report details distances between the community
monitor and the first point of operational activity of between
750 metres and 1,400 metres. PACT interprets this as being the
distance from the site to the properties and residents the subject
of the study. This is not correct; it is in fact the distance
from the site to the monitors, which were generally located close
to the centres of communities. All of the Opencast Study sites
had residential properties close to their boundaries.
The Report did not specifically test for asthmathe
health outcomes covered different levels of severity of illness
of the respiratory tract, eye and skin over different time periods.
The study concluded that there was no link found between living
in opencast communities and asthma.
The Report summarised a number of key findings,
some of which are as follows:
The pattern of PM10 levels over time
were similar in Opencast and Control Communities indicating regional
The cumulative or period prevalence
of asthma, wheeze, bronchitis and other respiratory illness was
similar in Opencast and Control Communities.
Asthmatic children in Opencast Communities
did not have more or more severe asthma attacks than children
in Control Communities in the past year.
In their answer to Question 216, PACT incorrectly
refers to the Newcastle Study as being an outdated study.
The study is in relative terms still young and
more to the point still relevant!
Developers'/opencasters' attention is expressly
directed to the Newcastle Study in the various Planning Guidance
documents relevant to England, Scotland and Wales.
When the Report was first prepared it was reviewed
by the "Committee on The Medical Effects Of Air Pollutants"
(COMEAP) and they stated that "the study was of a very high
COMEAP is an Advisory Committee of independent
experts that provides advice to Government Departments and Agencies
on all matters concerning the potential toxicity and effects upon
health of air pollutants.
Most members are appointed as independent scientific
and medical experts on the basis of their special skills and knowledge.
The one exception to this is the public interest member of the
Committee who is appointed for knowledge of consumer, and other,
matters. At all times individuals are required to declare conflicts
of interest and during discussions they may be disqualified at
the Chairman's discretion from contributing to the conclusions
and recommendations of the Committee.
The independent members are supported in their
work by a secretariat provided by the Department of Health. The
secretariat have scientific expertise that enables them to provide
members with comprehensive background information and briefing
papers that inform the decision-making processes of the Committee.
The Department of Health's Deputy Chief Medical
Officer, Dr Pat Troop, at the time of the publication of the Report
"This study was commissioned against a background
of very real public concern about the possible impact opencast
mining might have on the respiratory health of children, in particular
increased rates of childhood asthma. This very thorough and high
quality study has demonstrated that there are no such harmful
effects and so should provide general reassurance to parents in
areas where opencast mining is carried out at the moment or is
planned at some time in the future".
Miller Argent is not aware of any other relevant
authoritative evidence on particulate matter and its effect on
human health specific to opencast. We are aware of a range of
interesting but not directly relevant articles/papers on air quality
generally. We await with interest to see the actual papers that
PACT rely upon and have agreed to provide to the Welsh Affairs
Committee, as confirmed in their answer to Question 201.
However, the Department of the Environment Minerals
Division commissioned Arup Environmental, Ove Arup & Partners,
to investigate and assess the potential for surface mineral working
to give rise to dust impacts and to identify appropriate measures
for the control of such dust.
The primary aim of this study was to provide
guidance to the Department of the Environment (DoE), local authorities
and the mineral industry on how best to minimise dust generation
and the adverse effects of dust whilst having regard to the need
to maintain minerals production in an economic and viable way.
The report is earlier than the Newcastle Study
and is a HMSO publication and was issued in two volumes, it is
entitled "The Environmental Effects Of Dust from Surface
Mineral Workings"". This report concentrates on nuisance
dust and does not address the health impact.
With reference to PACT's comments on stand off
distances between sites and residential properties, they suggest
three miles from communities as being a distance which would not
interfere with ...
Since 1974 there has only been one opencast
coal site in Wales (DerlwynGlynneath) where the distance
between the site boundary and residential properties exceeded
500 metres. In effect if a 500 metre buffer zone was introduced
in Wales it would close the Welsh Opencast Industry down overnight.
PACT state that grid references are never quoted
in odd numbers. In making this statement they are clearly referring
to a specific quote in Celtic Energy's Environmental papers for
Margam Parc SlipI am not familiar with this document and
therefore cannot comment on the specific, but I can say that in
general terms it is quite normal to quote grid references in odd
numbersit all depends of the base reference that relates
to the coordinates and what degree of accuracy is required, ie
working to the nearest 100 metres, 10 metres or 1 metre?
Health Impact Assessments are not yet a legal
PACT refers to the Health Impact Assessments
carried out by Cardiff University (Cardiff Institute of Society,
Health and Ethics) for the Margam Opencast Mine and claims that
it "is always tried to be discredited". I would just
make the point that this study was developed under the guidance
of the steering group, the majority of whose members were local
residents, some of whom have been identified as objectors to the
scheme and it is therefore not surprising that the report's conclusions
reflect their views. It is also our understanding that the developer
of the site (Celtic Energy) was not invited to participate in
Miller Argent was aware of this report when
it was first published and commissioned independent experts in
this field to comment on the report. In the feedback Miller Argent
received, a very eminent Professor, qualified and experienced
in Public Health, stated:
"In summary, this is, in my view, one of
the most biased documents that I have ever read and which does
a disservice to the serious purpose normally attached to a HIA.
It is not in any way a useful contribution to judging the positive
and negative aspects of the proposed development".
Additionally, Miller Argent also commissioned
independent expert advice to review the document entitled "Health
Impact Assessment in WalesIts Impact On Skills, Knowledge
& Action", as produced by the Cardiff Institute of
Society, Health and Ethics in October 2004.
The document left the reviewers with two overwhelming
impressions: (a) The connection of this work with Health Impact
Assessment is extremely tenuous, and (b) the other great weakness
of this document is that there appears to have been no attempt
to use a scientific method in generating and analysing the results.
I quote some of the reviewer's comments as follows:
"The sole focus of the report appears to
be on community engagement, and specifically engagement between
local communities and statutory agencies.
I found it most surprising that there was no
mention whatever of engagement with potential developers.
Making local people feel empowered in decision-making
may in itself have small benefits for public health but there
are far bigger benefits to be gained from financial investment
within communities, leading to increased employment and improved
general well-being. These appear totally ignored in the report.
The other great weakness of this document is
that there appears to have been no attempt to use a scientific
method in generating and analysing the results. It is stated that
five case studies were used (but these are not identified), and
people involved within those case studies were interviewed. There
is no indication that the interviews were structured or that the
results were analysed in a quantitative manner which would have
allowed a scientifically-based appraisal of the results. Rather,
comments from the interviewees have been reported without any
obvious basis for their selection and one is left with the unavoidable
conclusion that the grounds for selection of quotes were simply
that they confirmed the prejudices of the authors of the report.
Without evidence of representativeness, this conclusion is inevitable.
Whilst community engagement in Health Impact
Assessments can have significant benefits, efforts need to be
made to engage with the silent majority of the community as well
as the vocal members of that community. Additionally, it needs
to be recognised that the more vocal members of communities often
have ideas which are poorly founded in fact and there may be a
role for those conducting the HIA in educating them and reducing
the prejudices that they have gained from ill-informed media reports
and other sources. Such ideas do not feature at all within this
report despite the fact that one of the objectives was to assess
the impact of HIA in Wales on knowledge.
On the basis of the content of this report and
that of the HIA which I have read emerging from the same source,
I am seriously concerned that Health Impact Assessment in Wales
is deviating very seriously from the true purposes of HIA and
will not generate the benefits which can accrue from a comprehensive
and scientific Health Impact Assessment process".
Miller Argent has sympathy with Celtic Energy,
the developer of the Margam Parc Slip project in respect of the
Health Impact Assessment, as a group of objectors to the Ffos-y-fran
Land Reclamation Scheme is now active in engaging the same authors
to produce a Health Impact Assessment in respect of Ffos-y-fran.
The objectors have advertised in the local press and have hand
delivered circulars to homes within the community inviting people
who hold negative feelings towards the Scheme and the industry
to participate. There has been no contact with Miller Argent nor
has there been any attempt to engage with the community at large.
Therefore is there any wonder why such an approach is held in
contempt by developers and informed reviewers?
Miller Argent places a high level of importance
on engagement with the community in developing it's projects,
including, public presentations and meetings, community flyers
and a comprehensive web site. We also meet members of the local
community on a regular basis to try and understand their concerns,
and as in most mining projects, Miller Argent fully support and
will operate a Site Liaison Committee engaging both the Local
Council and community representatives.
Miller Argent thanks the Welsh Affairs Committee
for affording them the opportunity to participate in this very
important Inquiry. We hope that the Committee will conclude from
the evidence it has heard that:
It is vitally important that the
UK maintains a balanced energy portfolio. This has to include
coal, nuclear, gas and renewablesthe lights will go out
if it doesn't.
That coal will continue to make a
significant contribution to the generation of electricity in the
UK and that every support should be given to indigenous coal production.
Coal should not be treated any differently
from any other mineral and that Government should acknowledge
that there a case for "need".
That Government acts quickly and
responsibly in facilitating the next generation of power generation
in order to prevent the Generation Gap that is forecast. This
includes streamlining the planning processincluding coal
That Government takes an important,
if not a lead, role in the global research, development and demonstration
of Carbon Capture and Sequestration (CCS) technology.
That a programme of research and
development of meaningful renewable energy sources is identified
From a Welsh perspective their interests are
entirely aligned with those of the UK in respect of energy considerations
and the support of indigenous coal will help with:
provision of employment for many
hundreds of people;
securing meaningful opportunities
for future generations;
the retention of a critical skill
balance of payments; and
reclamation of huge tracks of derelict
and/or unsafe land.
James T Poyner
30 January 2007