First Minister Mark Drakeford convened a mines safety summit today to address the safety and the environmental impacts of Wales’ disused coal mines, after a mine shaft burst in Skewen and caused catastrophic flooding last month.
The summit brought together Secretary of State Simon Hart, Welsh Government and UK Government representatives, Neath Port Talbot Leader Rob Jones, as well as Rhondda Cynon Taf Leader Andrew Morgan, fire and rescue and emergency services, the Coal Authority and Natural Resources Wales.
The First Minister called for Skewen residents to be at the heart of all immediate work, while suggesting a ten-year finance plan to make mine safety a reality across the country, with a look to factor in climate change into any works needed.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
Coal from Wales’ hillsides fuelled the industrial revolution, catapulting us into the modern world we know today. It is only right that our communities who gave so much, live safely and are not financially hit by the negative legacy of coal mining.
I wanted to convene today’s summit to discuss the risks to public safety and to agree, amongst other things, liability, the recovery process, the importance of engaging the affected community and the wider connections with the wider coal tip safety agenda. While there are some complexities to iron-out, the meeting was positive and productive, and we all agreed on the importance of putting the residents of Skewen at the heart of our plans.
I was heartened to hear the Coal Authority and UK Government agree the significance of this, as well as the expertise and collaborative spirit of the emergency services, local authorities and Natural Resources Wales.
Skewen was a wake-up call to us all. Homes were flooded at a rapid speed, and the impact of this has shocked the community.
We know that climate change will increase rainfall, and therefore poses an added risk to events like these happening again. We need a ten-year plan to finance work to secure all mines across the country, with climate change needing to be factored into any work going forward.
We will work with all parties to make the safety of coal, metal and other mines, as well as coal tips- priority, and find the right path forward on an issue that far predates devolution.
Today marks one year on from the Tylorstown landslide in Rhondda Cynon Taff, which was brought on following heavy rainfall and floods in February 2020. Since then, three coal tips summits have been convened and mapping of coal tips across Wales carried out, inspections and maintenance works are on-going.