Proposals to undertake a 17-year open cast mining operation at Nant Llesg on the edge of Rhymney could create a £28.7m-a-year hole in the local economy, lead to significant job losses and undermine efforts to attract new inward investment, according to a report published today by the Welsh Economy Research Unit (WERU) at Cardiff University.
The proposal by mining firm Miller Argent, which also operates the Ffos-y-Fran open cast mine in Merthyr, was submitted last month to Caerphilly County Council. The submission started a period of consultation that offers local people the chance to share their views on the proposals.
The Cardiff University study was commissioned by the Green Valleys Alliance, a partnership of local businesses and community groups launched in June 2012 in expectation of the proposals for mining at Nant Llesg. The research team carried out consultations with current investors in the upper Rhymney Valley and studied the potential economic impact of the open cast proposals, should they be given the go-ahead.
The report, which is available to view in full at http://www.greenvalleysalliance.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Cardiff-University-report-into-Nant-Llesg.doc, found that locally-based firms in the cosmetics, medical goods and medical supplies sector revealed concerns about the future of their operations should the mining proposals go ahead. These firms directly and indirectly support 620 Welsh jobs and an estimated £28.7m of regional gross value added (GVA).
In its latest Local Development Plan, Caerphilly County Council identifies Rhymney as a key local driver within the Heads of the Valley Regeneration Area (HOVRA), suggesting that the town is “uniquely placed to help change the perception of the sub-region through enhancing the visitor and tourism role the area has to offer”. However, the WERU report concludes that the presence of significant open cast mining at Nant Llesg “could affect future inward investment prospects into an area that has been shown to be very needy” and is “unlikely to assist in the location marketing of the Head of the Valleys area.”
A spokesperson for the Green Valleys Alliance said;
“This report supports what we have feared since Miller Argent first talked about extending its open cast mining operations to a second site on the edge of Rhymney; that the negative impact on the local economy is likely to far outweigh any benefits from the creation of local jobs or pledges to invest in a few community facilities.
“The developer has also made a lot of the remediation work that it will carry out on the land after the operation has come to an end. Our fear is that the damage done by 17 years of open cast mining to the local economy and the image of the area, not to mention the environment and people’s health and quality of life, is going to lead to a lost generation with very few prospects. No amount of remediation is going to repair this kind of damage.”
The WERU research does not directly question the claim by Miller Argent that the new mining operation at Nant Llesg will create between 160-270 new jobs. However, it cites factors such as changes in demand for coal, potential for job sharing with the nearby operation at Ffos-y-Fran and the use of subcontracting firms as difficulties in accurately predicting the number of new, local jobs that are likely to be created. The authors describe the linking of employment to output in open cast mining operations as “problematic” and suggests that on studying historical data from the Coal Authority “the assumption of approximately 160-270 additional new jobs linked to Nant Llesg could be contested”.
To read the full report click here.