26/10/09: A Day to Remember in the Fight Against Coal
We defeated E.On’s plans to build the first coal-fired power station in over 30 years, which is definitely something to be proud of. But, as this week’s actions have shown, the fight against coal is far from over and concerned individuals are showing no sign in slowing down their activities.
The first of three inspirational actions on Monday morning took place in the early hours at RWE npower’s Didcot Power Station in Oxfordshire. 20 intrepid cyclists rode right past the gate to the faces of perplexed security guards, with one team locking onto the coal conveyor belt for over 13 hours, and a second team ascending the 200m chimney and occupying it for two days and nights.
RWE npower were forced to admit that the action had stopped all coal fired electricity generation. Furthermore, the ability to bypass RWE n-power’s massively ramped up security and gain access to crucial machinery was truly inspirational, and demonstrated that nothing can hold back committed people determined to do something about climate change. Here’s what one participant who made it to the chimney top had to say:
“I’m a qualified builder and will be 52 in a week’s time. I never thought in my life I would do anything like this. It’s amazing how working with committed people can empower you to confront these massive companies and help force real change in the world.”
With all recent attention focused on E.On’s now shelved Kingsnorth plans, RWE npower has been able to hide in the shadows. Yet the company is not only behind two possible new coal plants in the UK, at Tilbury and Hunterston, but it also plans to build over 30 more across Europe. To use the bad pun featured in the Daily Mail, this action has shown that activists will go to great heights in order to halt RWE npower’s lethal intentions.
Monday’s second action began a couple of hours later at Mainshill Wood, South Lanarkshire. Mainshill Wood is currently being destroyed by Scottish Coal to make way for a new coal mine. It is one of 20 new mines to be given planning permission in Scotland, and is situated within one of the most heavily mined areas in Europe.
Refusing to let the coal beneath the ground get anywhere near a furnace, individuals blocked the site’s access road and this prevented destruction taking place for several hours. The blockade formed part of a long term battle at Mainshill Wood. A solidarity camp has been occupying part of the site for over four months, from which relentless action has sprouted including tunnelling, tree climbing and jumping on machinery.
With two actions already well underway, at 9.20am coal received its third strike when 20 activists climbed on machinery at Shipley opencast coal mine. Work was stopped at the site, with the participants having climbed on six vehicles. The target was particularly poignant given that coal mined from Shipley is supplied to Ratcliffe-on-Soar power station (the second biggest in the UK) where The Great Climate Swoop saw 1000 people collectively target the week before.
Those taking part in the protest highlighted that, in addition to climate change, opencast mines bring a range of catastrophic local issues. As one participant from the Shipley area stated, “the handful of jobs that opencast coal mining provides hardly compensate for the noise, traffic and pollution that we have to suffer. Local people fought long and hard against the this mine, not just for our sakes but also for that of our children.”
So, Monday the 26th of October will certainly go down as a day to remember in the ongoing struggle against coal. It demonstrated the range of targets that need to be hit, from the operational mine, to the mine not yet created, to the power station itself. But it also heralded a new stage in stopping coal, with none of the three actions being a one day affair. Resistance against new opencast mines will continue to rage. Work on existing mines will be stopped with ever increasing vigour. New coal fired power stations will not be built.
E.On may have F’d Off, but our job is far from done!