This morning, the East Ayrshire Council Cabinet will meet to discuss an initial report into the state of the opencast coal mining industry. The report, published yesterday by the Council, highlights publicly for the first time the scale of failings on the part of Scottish Coal and ATH Resources in fulfilling their obligations both to restore sites but also to adhere to the planning conditions imposed by the Council. The report is also a damning indictment of the local authority’s failure to adequately enforce and monitor the conditions it imposed.
Most significantly, the report reveals that only £16.1 million are held in Scottish Coal restoration bonds and £11.525 million in ATH/Ardvark bonds , whereas liquidators KPMG estimate restoration costs at between £48 and £90 million between the two companies . This estimate is unverified, and there is still no estimate for many former opencast sites in the area as the Council are still concluding their investigations. Further still, there are sites with no bonds in place and there is huge uncertainty as to whether the bonds that are in place will actually be paid out.
The restoration bombshell has finally been dropped: in East Ayrshire alone the shortfall could be up to £60 million. What about South Lanarkshire, North Lanarkshire, Fife and other areas? We’re looking at a £100 million bill that will be dumped on the public purse.
The mining companies have failed in their statutory obligations, but local authorities should have been enforcing the planning rules, and in this they have failed tragically. East Ayrshire Council are to blame as well as Scottish Coal and ATH Resources.
The document released by East Ayrshire Council also reveals that their legal counsel has been instructed to challenge Scottish Coal’s winding up petition over issues of abandonment of sites, and that KPMG, liquidators also acting for ATH Resources, want to abandon at least three former ATH sites in addition to the Scottish Coal sites .
The report highlights various failings to comply with legal agreements signed by the Council, mining companies and landowners, such as the requirement to hold regular liaison and Technical Working Group meetings. Further still, the report highlights the fact that a quarter of a million pounds has not been paid into the Minerals Trust in Ayrshire. 
The document also calls for a full independent review of the opencast mining industry by saying “it will be necessary to fully review all of the processes and procedures around the management, determination, implementation, monitoring and review of the planning processes in relation to opencast coal operations within East Ayrshire, all within the governance arrangements in place throughout the period.”
Coal Action Scotland believes that a full public inquiry to fully comprehend the failings that contributed to the state that the industry now finds itself in is necessary before any operations can be resumed, and before a monopoly in the industry is created by allowing Hargreves Services to cherry-pick sites.
Over the past 10 to 15 years local authorities such as East Ayrshire and South Lanarkshire Councils have had far too cosy a relationship with the mining companies, issuing consent after consent, and failing miserably in their enforcement and monitoring obligations. Now the stark reality of what this industry has done to communities and the countryside is hitting them square on.
It is also important to acknowledge that this missing £100 million is where Scottish Coal and ATH bosses have made their money – by saving costs on restoration that they should have been doing progressively, the industry boomed when the times were good, and now both have gone bust and are walking away from their liabilities. In effect, Scotland will be subsidising the irresponsible actions of mining bosses to the tune of £100 million.
 Para 61 of the report
 Para 60 of the report
 Para 68 of the report
 Para 113 of the report
There once was a company called scottish coal.
That screwed their workers onto the dole.
They dug and dug and left big holes,
Aw tae get a seam o coal.
The countryside was nice and fresh,
Now theyve left, its such a mess.
Theyve put money into a bond,
They r oot the game, weve aw been conned.
The tips are there oh what a state.
Whos left wae the bill tae reinstate.
The board o directors they ran away.
They r aw guilty tae this day
By Crusher Bill
What a great poem! It’s just a shame it’s so accurate. The collapse of Scottish Coal shows what happens when a handful of very rich men are given as much power as the company directors had over workers and communities. Redundancies in Scottish Coal have always been a common occurrence – they rolled with the good times, but when the times got tough the workers were the first to go. Ultimately what happened was inevitable – the bosses expanded far too quickly, stripped everything they could out of the business, let the debts and liabilities pile up and went bust. 590 redundancies, 17 huge scars on the landscape and a legacy of ill health and social deprivation in the communities that had to put up with them. Will these profiteering suits be held accountable for the harm they’ve caused? Only time will tell.
As we reported, the new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust was set up just before Scottish Coal went into liquidation. It’s two directors were also directors of Hargreaves Services, a coal company from England. Well, this week it’s all change as tho two directors, Iain Cockburn and Steve MacQuarrie, both had their directorships terminated on the 29th of April. They have been replaced by Alan Doak, who runs AED Planning & Development Ltd (who applied for the Hardgatehead extension of Wilsontown opencast on behalf of Hall Construction), and Stuart McKay, Head of Scottish Government Fossil Fuels and CCS. Both are on the board for the Restoration Trust, with Doak representing landowners (along with Robert Hyslop) and McKay representing the Scottish Government.
Last Tuesday Scottish Ministers were briefed by Stuart McKay who outlined some of the options being considered by the Restoration Trust. Worryingly, one of the “Alternative Uses” identified for opencast sites is landfill.
Hargreaves Plc lurking in the background ready to move in on Scottish Coal, and already have a hand in Scottish Government “solutions”2 Comments April 25th, 2013
The dust hasn’t settled, families are still reeling from the mass redundancies, communities are still trying to work out what the future holds for the massive holes in the ground and it seems that the vultures are circling in the form of Hargreaves Services Plc.
Hargreaves are now one of the biggest coal companies in the UK. With a more varied income, spread over many industries, they have weathered the recent troubles that have besieged other coal companies slightly better, despite being forced to close their deep mine at Maltby. This year Hargreaves managed to raise £42 million specifically to move into open cast, or surface mining as they call it. Hargreaves, you may remember, bought £15 million of ATH Resources’ debt and are hoping to take over the profitable sites. On April the 19th, when referring to the acquisition of ATH they said it would “create a platform for the Group to invest in surface mining in Scotland” and that they had “also recently commenced discussions on a second major surface mining asset opportunity.” That same day Scottish Coal went bust. Newspapers for area’s affected by Scottish Coal’s liquidation have also tipped Hargreaves as a possible buyer of some of Scottish Coal’s mines (The Courier, Cumnock Chronicle).
Scottish Coal ask courts to allow them to walk away from opencast sites as Hargreaves directors set up Restoration Trust on Energy Minister’s behalf1 Comment April 24th, 2013
Coal Action Scotland media release: for immediate use 24th April 2013
Media contact: email@example.com
Scottish Coal ask courts to allow them to walk away from opencast sites as Hargreaves directors set up Restoration Trust on Energy Minister’s behalf
Campaigners are outraged by what they say is a despicable petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh by liquidators acting on behalf of Scottish Coal, that seeks permission to walk away from mine sites and prioritise the payment of liquidators over planning obligations. 
In a separate but related development, campaigners have discovered that Fergus Ewing’s new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, set up to oversee the restoration of derelict sites as actually registered as a limited company by two of Hargreave’s directors, the very company tipped to buy Scottish Coal’s more productive mines. 
Whilst a lot has happened in the past few days – secret meetings for MSPs, the liquidation of the UK’s largest opencast operator – a picture of the deal that Fergus Ewing and Russel Griggs are trying to strike to save the opencast industry is increasingly coming to light. Announcements of a new trust for restoration make clear our suspicions that there isn’t anywhere near enough money for restoration, or even the will to use any of it. Rumblings from the Scottish Government and mining companies such as Hargreves indicate that potentially profitable mines will be sold, whilst spent ones lie unrestored and forgotten. The question is: what deal will be struck that will allow other mining companies to operate these mines profitably? And more importantly in the grand scheme of things, what lengths will this SNP government go to save one of the most despised companies in the central belt?
“In light of Scottish Coal’s poor trading and financial position, we have had to cease trading with immediate effect,”
-Blair Nimmo, joint provisional liquidator and head of restructuring at KPMG in Scotland.
Scottish Coal, the UK’s biggest coal producer, has announced today that they are entering administration. Due to recent “significant cash flow pressures” they have laid-off 600 workers and stopped all production at their six open cast sites.
New open cast sites are unlikely to happen, and this is something to be happy about. However, 600 people have lost their jobs, and they won’t be the moneymen at the top, but the workers with little safety net. They have also had their last week of wages stolen, as this won’t be paid. For those living next to existing or unrestored sites this means scars on the landscape that are unlikely to be fixed any time soon. It’s time to get angry, and take back the land and wages that Scottish Coal bosses have stolen.
More information and analysis from Coal Action Scotland is expected shortly. Watch this space.
The long awaited but closely guarded briefing to MSPs by Professor Russel Griggs and Energy Minister Fergus Ewing took place in the Scottish Parliament today. Despite countless attempts to find details of this briefing – none of which were made publicly available – and after numerous requests to meet with Griggs and MSPs privy to the discussions beforehand, the time and content of the meeting were kept a closely guarded secret. However, shortly before it happened the details were revealed and a Glespin resident decided to attend in person since all other routes for participation seemed closed. The resident wanted to know what was going on, and why no community group in Scotland had been involved in any discussions so far. They also wanted to know if neighboring Glentaggart would ever be restored. The briefing seemed like the place to get these questions answered. Alas, it was declared “private, and for MSPs only”, so the Glespin resident was unceremoniously asked to leave after a short call from the Energy Minister to parliamentary staff. Will the minutes of the briefing be made publicly available? he asked. Nobody knew.
It has recently emerged that Fergus Ewing MSP, the SNP government’s Energy Minister, has been holding secret talks with Scottish Coal to find solutions to the cmpany’s financial difficulties, which currently see it in the hands of its bankers Lloyds TSB. As part of these talks the government has been consulting industry deregulation guru Professor Russel Griggs on issues of opencast restoration. Despite there being no information publicly available about these talks, and every door closed to communities in terms of their involvement in current decision-making, Ewing and Griggs will be briefing MSPs on their proposals at Holyrood on Wednesday 17th April. In order for the industry to be profitable again it must be deregulated – meaning no restoration, no community fund payments and no environmental mitigation – but will the Scottish Government sell communities out for the benefit of a failing company?
The following was posted on Indymedia Scotland this morning.
At some point over the past weekend multiple items of plant machinery at an extension to the Powharnal open cast coal site in East Ayrshire were put beyond working use. High value targets including a prime mover and bulldozer were also targeted to cause maximum disruption to workings at the mine.
Scottish Coal is falling and not only do we intend to make sure that they go down – but that they stay down too.