October 4, 2008

Villagers in Mineshaft Storm ; Fears of Opencast After New Collapse

By Jackie Bow

VILLAGERS are pressing councillors to throw out plans for work on a controversial site after a gaping hole appeared in another mine shaft collapse.

In January a 20 metre-wide hole opened up on the Merthyr Village site in Merthyr Tydfil to expose a disused mine shaft.

It has now been revealed a second hole, 12 metres wide and seven metres deep, was found last Wednesday, south of the previous massive collapse.

Merthyr Village Ltd wants planning consent to carry out remediation work to make safe its 200-hectare site at Rhydycar West - the Coal Authority has described the risk from mining-related hazards on the land as "unparalleled in our experience".

The proposed 578m ground stabilising scheme would involve the removal of around 1.2 million tonnes of coal over four years.

But villagers are opposed to the plan and people from Abercanaid have now submitted a 345-name petition opposing the remediation scheme to Merthyr council.

"We just don't want our countryside ripped up.

"We see the proposed scheme as open-casting," said Kim Davies of the Gethin Action Group.

The action group is supporting a move by the Countryside Council for Wales to protect the majority of the Merthyr Village land as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Merthyr Village director Wyn Holloway said the newly-discovered collapse reinforces the urgency of planning approval for its scheme.

"This demonstrates the safety implications and how unpredictable the site can be.

"Mines Rescue says while this collapse is not as deep as the last one it is more dangerous because it is open and close to a path.

"The company that dealt with the previous collapse won't go on there because it is too dangerous. Mines Rescue fenced it off but say it is still falling in, the sides are very weak."

Mr Holloway has always rejected the opencast claims. "They are just using the word to frighten people," he said.

Councillors, who have yet to consider the application, recently accepted their planning officer's advice and rejected a Merthyr Village application to build around 650 houses on 46 acres of its site.

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