13 June 2024
Wales' Coalmining Legacy Raises Mounting Concerns

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The legacy of Wales’ coalmining past continues to instill fear, as evidenced by a landslip that occurred nearly four years ago, where 60,000 tons of mining debris cascaded down a hillside, an event that remains vivid in the memory of ex-miner Jeff Coombes. The incident underscores the ongoing challenges faced by communities in dealing with the remnants of Wales’ coalmining legacy.

Fears in Wales over legacy of its coalmining past



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It’s been nearly four years since a landslip sent 60,000 tons of old mining debris sliding down a Welsh hillside, but the memory still haunts former miner Jeff Coombes. The incident occurred in the heart of the Rhondda Valley in south Wales, where Coombes was walking along the river with his dog. First, the river turned brown, then the water slowed down. Coombes noticed the coal tip was moving, and soon after, he heard a roar. Thankfully, no one was hurt in this incident, but it has raised concerns about the ever-present danger of disused coal tips in Wales.

A comprehensive census of old tips

Following the incident in 2020, the Welsh authorities conducted a comprehensive census of old tips, also known as slag or spoil heaps, throughout the country. The census revealed more than 2,500 of these mini-mountains of debris from old mine shafts, a reminder of Wales’s mining past. Out of these, 350 were deemed to pose a serious risk of collapse, with 79 located in the Rhondda Cynon Taf region. As a result, these tips will now be monitored twice a year.

The risks of destabilized spoil heaps

These slag heaps can become destabilized due to their loose and unconsolidated material sitting on slopes. Water is another major factor that can trigger the destabilization of these spoil heaps, with intense rainfall being implicated in the landslip at Tylorstown. An independent report on climate change risks in 2021 highlighted the increasing likelihood of future landslides linked to former mining activity, as rainfall becomes more frequent and violent.

Raising awareness and ensuring safety

In the Rhondda Valley, where the slopes are now covered in vegetation, the danger of these slag heaps has become almost invisible. However, the incident in Tylorstown has raised awareness among the locals. Former local councilor Phil Rowe believes that the fear of another disaster has caused “a lot of panic” in the community. However, he also feels that the authorities are not carrying out the necessary surveillance to prevent such incidents.

The cost of making safe the slag heaps

The cost of making all the potentially dangerous slag heaps safe has been estimated at £500 million to £600 million over 15 years. However, the Welsh authorities claim that the UK government in London is not willing to contribute directly. This has sparked anger among the locals, who feel forgotten since the closure of the mines made the region less economically important. Welsh Labour MP Beth Winter recently questioned Prime Minister Rishi Sunak about the UK’s responsibility in funding the safety of this legacy.

A reminder of Wales’s coal mining history

The memories of the mining industry that once dominated the valleys of south Wales remain strong among the older generation. However, younger generations are less aware of this history and the associated risks. It is important to educate and raise awareness among the younger population about the legacy of coal mining in Wales and the potential dangers that still exist.

In conclusion, the fears over the legacy of Wales’s coal mining past are valid and require attention. The safety of these slag heaps should not be overlooked, and proper monitoring and maintenance are crucial to prevent future disasters. It is also important for the UK government to acknowledge its responsibility in funding the safety measures, considering the economic benefits it gained from Welsh coal. By addressing these concerns and ensuring the safety of these areas, we can protect both the environment and the people of Wales.

Read More: Fears in Wales over legacy of its coalmining past

https://phys.org/news/2024-01-wales-legacy-coalmining.html

FAQ’s

1. What are slag heaps and why are they a concern in Wales?

Slag heaps, also known as spoil heaps, are mini-mountains of debris from old mine shafts. They pose a risk in Wales due to their potential for collapse, which can be triggered by factors such as loose material and intense rainfall.

2. How many potentially dangerous slag heaps are there in Wales?

According to a census conducted by Welsh authorities, there are over 2,500 slag heaps in Wales. Out of these, 350 have been deemed to pose a serious risk of collapse, with 79 located in the Rhondda Cynon Taf region.

3. What are the risks associated with destabilized slag heaps?

Destabilized slag heaps can lead to landslides, which can be dangerous and cause damage to the surrounding areas. Factors such as loose material and intense rainfall increase the likelihood of destabilization.

4. Are the authorities taking measures to ensure safety?

The slag heaps deemed to pose a serious risk are now being monitored twice a year. However, there are concerns that the necessary surveillance is not being carried out to prevent future incidents.

5. Who is responsible for funding the safety measures?

The cost of making the slag heaps safe has been estimated at £500 million to £600 million over 15 years. The Welsh authorities claim that the UK government in London is not willing to contribute directly, leading to anger among the locals who feel forgotten since the closure of the mines.



Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Coal mining in Wales, Landslides in Wales, Rhondda Valley

Coal industry in Wales
The coal industry in Wales played an important role in the Industrial Revolution in Wales. Coal mining in Wales expanded in the 18th century to provide fuel for the blast furnaces of the iron and copper industries that were expanding in southern Wales. The industry had reached large proportions by...
Read more: Coal industry in Wales

1997 Thredbo landslide
The Thredbo landslide was a catastrophic landslide that occurred at the village and ski resort of Thredbo, New South Wales, Australia, on 30 July 1997. Two ski lodges were destroyed and 18 people died. Stuart Diver was the only survivor.
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Rhondda
Rhondda , or the Rhondda Valley (Welsh: Cwm Rhondda [kʊm ˈr̥ɔnða]), is a former coalmining area in South Wales, historically in the county of Glamorgan. It takes its name from the River Rhondda, and embraces two valleys – the larger Rhondda Fawr valley (mawr large) and the smaller Rhondda Fach...
Read more: Rhondda

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