Make Ffos y Fran safe – restore now

Published: 22 Apr 2024

Since the owners stopped mining the site, Ffos y Fran has been allowed to rapidly fill with water, and is fast becoming a polluted lake, hazardous to residents in many ways.
Photo showing Ffos y Fran filling with water (photo courtesy of Coal Action Network)
Ffos y Fran is a now a huge, dangerous hole, filling with water (photo courtesy of Coal Action Network)

To the huge relief of residents and campaigners, and after 17 years of mining on their doorstep, the owner of Ffos y Fran, Merthyr (South Wales) Limited, stopped mining coal.

The site is now eerily quiet and residents living in its shadow in the town of Merthyr Tydfil are thankfully no longer plagued with all the dust and the drone from the diggers and trucks hauling coal off the site.

But for the local community the end of coaling is cold comfort. When the owners stopped mining coal, they switched off the drainage pumps. Now they are allowing the mine at Ffos y Fran to fill with water.

So instead of the public amenity they were promised, the people of Merthyr Tydfil have been left with a massive, dangerous hole, rapidly filling with contaminated water.

The permission to mine coal at Ffos y Fran was given on the condition the site was restored for the benefit of local people; it was after all primarily a Land Reclamation Scheme. There is understandable outrage that this company is trying to wriggle out of its obligation to properly restore the site.

Now the local community waits in limbo as Merthyr (South Wales) Limited and Merthyr Council discuss a revised restoration scheme. This scheme was going to be introduced at the start of the year and is now mentioned as being ready in late autumn of this year, so we still don’t know when work on the site will begin.

Meanwhile, the situation at Ffos y Fran gets worse and worse. Unless urgent action is taken to make this site safe for people and wildlife, it is only a matter of time before there is a tragedy.


Photo of Chris and Alyson Austin
Residents Chris and Alyson Austin from Merthyr Friends of the Earth

Residents Chris and Alyson Austin, from Merthyr Friends of the Earth, said:

“What we have is a scar on the landscape worse than we had at the start. This dangerous structure is a threat hanging over the local populace for the foreseeable future. This loose and steep-sided mine, polluted by toxins from the coal seams, will be a magnet for young people.

“This mine has not been surveyed to safely hold water so we have no idea whether millions of gallons of water could cascade out of the mine if the walls were to fail, and the polluted water could escape into the water table if it were to leak out.

“We are furiously petitioning the public agencies that have responsibility for this mine to switch the pumps back on and drain this void so that it can, at least, be surveyed for safety, but better, filled back in to make it safe and visually acceptable for the future of us all in Merthyr.”


Photo of Haf Elgar
Haf Elgar, Director, Friends of the Earth Cymru

Haf Elgar, Director of Friends of the Earth Cymru, said:

“It’s disgraceful that Ffos y Fran is now a dangerous hole rapidly filling with water. 

“For the safety of local people and wildlife, the water pumps must be turned back on, and a proper restoration plan carried out urgently. Merthyr Council and the Welsh Government must take action to make sure that this happens. 

“The stated purpose of the years of opencast coal mining was so that the company would then restore the site for the enjoyment of local people and nature. The opposite is now true, and we can’t let them get away with it.  

“Local residents have suffered enough from the disruption, noise and dust of the mining over the years - they must now be spared this incredibly dangerous situation.” 

Coal mining might be at an end at Ffos y Fran, but for local people and campaigners, the fight for environmental and social justice is far from over.

The Senedd's Climate Change, Environment and Infrastructure Committee is holding an inquiry into the restoration of former opencast mining sites, including Ffos y Fran, and in the coming weeks there will be evidence sessions with environmental groups including Friends of the Earth Cymru and Coal Action Network, and with impacted local residents. 

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