Here are the concerns of local people about the impact the mine will have on their jobs, and local businesses. Safety is also a major worry as the area has a history of ground collapse due to old limestone workings :
Sheena Irving runs an audio visual production company whose studio is located 400 metres from the site boundary. “The impact of the noise from lorries and specifically the blasting is going to have a huge impact on my business and I would seriously need to consider re-locating if this proposal goes ahead.”
Malcolm Sharp runs a catering business, which is located just 300 metres from the proposed site. “I have major concerns about the impact this proposed mine will have on my business. Clean air and a dust-free environment are essential for food preparation and the opencast coal operations so close by will inevitably have a detrimental impact on air quality.”
Local horse owner Gill Brittle stables her horse at a local livery yard. “There are at least four equestrian businesses within a one mile radius of the proposed site providing valuable local employment and contributing to the rural economy. Our yard alone employs eight full time staff and stables more than 40 horses, which in turn supports a large number of local farriers, vets, feed suppliers, saddlers and farmers. Take away the wonderful countryside and safe riding environment and one of the key benefits which make all these businesses viable will be gone.”
Rhona Brankin, Labour MSP for Midlothian, has expressed concerns. “I share the concerns of local residents about the potential effects of blasting by Scottish Coal and possible subsidence as a result. I understand that the Cousland area has a considerable number of lime workings and that the information on the extent and location of those workings is incomplete. With that in mind, I would question the wisdom of approving the planning application for opencasting in the area.”
Local parents Billy and Lesley Lumsden are worried about the application, following an accident two years previously involving their 15 year old son, “There is a history of ground collapse in the area surrounding the village, due to the old limestone mines. Our son Daniel narrowly escaped death when the ground in the local playing field collapsed beneath him. Fortunately his friend was close by and was able to pull him to safety. We have absolutely no confidence in Scottish Coal’s assurances that the blasting operations aren’t going to have any serious impact on the stability of our houses and the safety of residents.”
A leading geologist from Edinburgh University’s School of Geosciences, Professor Godfrey Fitton has also raised doubts over Scottish Coal’s analysis and the impact of the mine on the stability of the village. Prof. Fitton said, “There are serious omissions from Scottish Coal’s analysis, and more detailed information about the rock that will be blasted and its mineral composition is required. There is recent evidence of spontaneous collapse in the area surrounding the village of Cousland, and the full extent of the historic workings is not surveyed. Unstable mine workings beneath the area will most certainly be affected in unpredictable ways by blasting. Blasting near to unstable ground can only make it more unstable and the possibility of large parts of the village being directly affected by ground collapse would, in my opinion, not be an unexpected outcome should this proposal be approved.”
CAAOC submitted a report to Midlothian Council Planning Department in September 2009, outlining the main objections to this mine:
Ground Stability & Safety
Of particular local concern are the effects of blasting on the remains of underground lime workings. These pose a serious risk of land subsidence and risk to life. Professor J. Godfrey Fitton BSc, PhD (Dunelm), FRSE, Professor of Igneous Petrology; University of Edinburgh has commented as follows with regard to the Cousland limeworkings:-
“Unstable mine workings beneath the area will most certainly be affected in unpredictable ways by blasting. Raising the spectre of large parts of the village disappearing down a big hole would not be unreasonable exaggeration.”
Impact on Local Economy
Scottish Coal initially reported they would be ‘creating’ 50 jobs at the site, but then publicly admitted that they would not be new jobs but transfers from other sites. The specialist nature of the jobs suggests they would carry over from previous opencast sites and would not be available to local people. These will be relatively short term jobs and low in the provision of long term, sustainable skills. Scottish Coal’s employment figures in other mines have, time after time, fallen far short of those originally promised.
Local jobs would be lost forever if local businesses have a turndown due to the siting and operation of the mine. These include a number of equestrian centres which will find it difficult, if not impossible, to function with the noise, pollution and disruption of an open cast mine. One livery yard alone employs 8 staff permanently and generates business on which several local suppliers rely for feed, etc. It is therefore conceivable that the number of local jobs under threat would exceed those ultimately employed by Scottish Coal.
CAAOC have contacted the 38 local businesses that were identified by Scottish Coal in their application and responses to date have raised numerous concerns, not least that none of those businesses were ever contacted by Scottish Coal. Furthermore Scottish Coal’s economic consultants have since stated that a survey of local businesses, “was unlikely to add value to the analysis since it would gather business opinion on the proposed development rather than evidence of impact.” However Scottish Coal evidently saw more value in including their own opinions on the likely impact on these businesses, as this information was included in their original application document.
There are deep concerns over the health risk posed by coal dust and other airborne pollution which have the potential to endanger the well being of communities in Midlothian, and villages such as Ormiston in the surrounding parts of East Lothian.
Risks to traffic safety from HGVs routed along narrow and steep country roads have not been addressed by Scottish Coal.
Detriment to Landscape & Visual Impact
The existing landscape of Airfield Farm is of outstanding quality as demonstrated by its inclusion within a designated Area of Great Landscape Value. This carries a policy presumption against development, in both local and structure plans, to protect its special scenic qualities and landscape integrity.
Impact on Ecology & Natural Heritage
The Hadfast Valley Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) lies only 300metres to the north of the site boundary. This is one of the most important areas for breeding birds in The Lothians.
Impact on Built Heritage
Cousland Castle is a scheduled monument and Historic Scotland has expressed concern to Scottish Coal about its protection. We consider the fragile fabric of Cousland Castle is in danger from blasting vibration and we have urged Midlothian Council to commission an independent investigative study.
Contrary to the Midlothian Council Development Plan
Airfield is not an ‘Area of Search’. Midlothian Local Plan – Policy MIN1 identifies four locations as “Areas of Search” for opencast coal in Midlothian but Airfield is not included. Scottish Coal accepts in its Planning Statement that “the proposal does not lie within an Area of Search”. The policy states “Outwith the areas of current working and Areas of Search, there is a presumption against surface mineral extraction.”
And finally….Scottish Coal, some interesting facts:
Scottish Coal is perhaps not as Scottish as you might think. It is currently owned by English businessman Colin Cornes, who was reported in the Herald as being ”a rich and successful businessman who knows the industry inside out and is no fool”. Colin Cornes was listed in the Sunday Times Rich list 2009, is a private shareholder who made his fortune in the 1970s and 1980s from opencast coalmining in Scotland and England. It would appear he enjoys entertaining guests with a spot of salmon fishing. Lord Moonie, Labour Peer and former MP for Kirkcaldy, (who also received payment of between £10,000 – £15,000 as a non-executive director of Mining (Scotland)) enjoyed six days’ salmon fishing as the guest of Mr Colin Cornes. (Registered 3 February 2004) Source: (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/regmem/?p=10438)
In August 2008 Scottish Coal has been fined £400,000 for health and safety breaches over the deaths of two miners. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said the “entirely preventable” deaths arose from management failures. Scottish Coal pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act. (source: The Herald 26 Aug 2008)
The Scottish Coal (Deep Mine) Company Ltd is currently in liquidation as a result of a mine collapse at Longannet, Fife, which had it occurred 24 hours earlier, it was reported that hundreds of miners would have drowned. (Source: The Independent Saturday, 30 March 2002)
Extracts from Scottish Coal v. Royal and Sun Alliance and Ors (2008): The case related to an earlier collapse at Longannet in 2000. The judge found a set of facts broadly conforming to the evidence of specialist engineers (IMIU) and RSA’s witnesses, to the effect that when the collapse occurred Scottish Coal had indeed been engaged in an unusual and very risky operation, and he rejected Scottish Coal’s evidence that IMIU had been duly informed of what the mine intended to do, and in the event did. This involved findings that Scottish Coal had removed a pillar of coal which was performing a vital support function, in doing so ignoring or overriding specialist advice from their own consultants about the risks involved. (Source: Two Temple Gardens Barristers Chambers)