In addition to recent investment in infrastructure and regeneration projects, the ‘Heads of the Valleys’ has seen an influx of private sector investment – a projected £360m by 2020. In Rhymney, this has created new jobs in areas like cosmetics, healthcare, pharmaceuticals and engineering. It has been claimed that the proposed opencast mine at Nant Llesg will create “more than 200 jobs”.
Looking at the case of Ffos Y Fran, the Alliance feels strongly that there are significant question marks over whether local people will really benefit. Jobs at opencast sites require specialist skills and experience and this generally results in the importation of labour from other parts of the UK. Add to that the proportion of administrative jobs, senior management and jobs on the rail link that are unlikely to be duplicated and it is questionable whether even 100 ‘new jobs’ will be created at a second mine at Nant Llesg.
What is certain is that existing jobs at businesses operating within the shadow of the mine will not survive. Cosmetic and pharmaceutical companies cannot operate anywhere near a mine for risk of product contamination – which immediately puts over 300 jobs in Rhymney alone at serious risk. Many other local businesses feel that the combined factors of impact on staff, negative perception of customers and increased management time involved in dealing with the impact of the mine are too great to remain in the area. Many of the ‘at risk’ businesses located closest to the Nant Llesg site employ a large percentage of women – jobs that are unlikely to be replaced at the mine – and we also know that an opencast mine will deter new investors from moving into the region, meaning that any new jobs introduced by the mine would be offset by businesses leaving the area and not being replaced.