New data showing the true extent of Cymru’s coal tip challenge has been published today as the First Minister makes a fresh call for the UK Government to invest in coal tip safety and ‘help communities who have already given so much’.
For the first time ever, the Welsh Government has been able to provide a breakdown of the 2,456 identified tips in Cymru split into risk categories and by local authority.
The new data follows a written statement from Climate Change Minister Julie James earlier this month where she confirmed Welsh Government had collected the data and shared with local authorities and Local Resilience Forums to assist with emergency preparedness.
The data shows that Castell-nedd Port Talbot has the greatest number of sites at 607 but that Rhondda Cynon Taf has the most sites classified as being at higher risk at 75.
Higher risk sites fall under categories C and D which recognise there is a potential to cause risk to safety, not that there is an imminent or immediate threat – it means that more frequent inspections are scheduled.
The publication of the data comes ahead of this afternoon’s Coal Tip Safety Summit, which is meeting for the fourth time. The summit will discuss the progress of the Coal Tip Safety Task Force, including data mapping and ongoing maintenance and inspection work.
Funding for the long-term reclamation of coal tips will also be discussed at the summit. Repurposing, reclamation and remediation of disused coal tips to deal with the legacy of the pre-devolution mining industry is estimated to cost at least £500m to £600m over the next decade and a half. The Welsh Government has stressed the need for this investment to be frontloaded in the coming years, as rainfall intensifies and temperatures increase because of the changing climate.
The First Minister said: “We recognise how concerning living in the shadow of a coal tip can be for communities and we want to reassure local residents that a lot of work is being done to ensure they are safe.
“An inspection and maintenance regime is in place, with winter inspections currently underway on the higher risk tips. We’re also piloting technology trials to better understand any ground movement at higher risk sites. But we know the risks will increase with climate change and we know the importance of reaching a long-term solution.
“These sites pre-date devolution. Our funding settlement does not recognise the substantial, long-term costs of remediating and repairing these sites. Tomorrow’s Spending Review is an opportunity for the UK Government to use its financial powers to help communities who’ve given so much to Wales and the United Kingdom during the coal-mining years. A package of investment to remediate these sites will show how our two governments can work together for the communities we serve.”