Letter: Open-cast mining: no gain, much pain

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The Independent Online
Sir: Thank you for publishing Jim White's report about the piteous plight of the demoralised and despairing people of Grimethorpe ('Grimethorpe: no pit, no point', 12 October).

Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, said there was no market for coal and closed down all but 16 of Britain's established deep mines. He boasted at the Tory party conference of the lucrative sale of a large slice of British Coal to RJB Mining - a private coal company.

No mention was made anywhere of the other component of coal privatisation - open-cast mining. In Yorkshire, Wales and many other areas, open-cast sites are being applied for at a terrifying rate by small private contractors.

They are succeeding with the active encouragement of the Government.

Open-cast mining creates few jobs; indeed, it is so environmentally devastating, it may actually discourage other industries from entering such an area. The health risks to local people have not been properly investigated, but doctors in Wales report a huge increase in asthma cases in open- cast areas - especially among young children.

In our own small village, 15 miles from Grimethorpe, 10 open- cast sites are being considered, all on green-belt, greenfield sites. Two are near the village school and one is opposite the church and will actually surround the village cemetery. Meanwhile, Sharlston's established profitable deep mine has been closed for good. Seven hundred and fifty local men have lost their jobs and half a million tons of excellent coal still stands at the pithead.

Six million people in Yorkshire and Wales will be living in a landscape of Hell. What use to us is low inflation or tax cuts in such circumstances?

Yours sincerely, C. R. HINDERER Sharlston, West Yorkshire 13 October (Photograph omitted)

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