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