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Proposal to develop and operate coal mine in Wales

World Coal,

New activity is taking place at a Welsh coal mine, as Alabama-based Walter Energy outlines proposals to develop and operate a coal mine in Neath Port Talbot for a minimum of 25 years.

Limited operations have resumed at the Aberpergwm mine, which closed in 2012 as 290 mineworkers lost their jobs. The 6000 acre site lies 5 km from the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Energybuild has submitted an application to Neath Port Talbot Council for a basic permit renewal for an existing local permit. The permit pertains to the long-term development and operation of the Aberpergwm Mine. The 25-year application covers extending and reconfiguring underground coal workings, creating a mine waste depository, and developing the surface of the mine by regularising and extending existing mine-related operations and constructing new infrastructure.

Energybuild is a wholly owned subsidiary of US energy giant, Walter Energy.

The newly published design and access statement for the proposal was produced by Heaton Planning.

The statement said: "Energybuild, the applicant, is seeking planning permission under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 for works to secure the future of the mine and its workforce. The application is to regularise activity at the mine and ensure its ability to operate for the medium- to long-term within proper environmental and planning regimes and in so doing provides significant benefit to the local economy through job creation and delivers important national energy requirements."

Walter Energy first revealed operations at Aberpergwm had resumed in December 2013. Energybuild originally reopened the coal mine in 1996, after being closed by British Coal in 1985.

The mine has probable recoverable reserves of 7.6 million t of high-grade anthracite.

Most coal at the site is delivered to Port Talbort Steelworks, owned by Tata Steel.

Any expansion to the Welsh coal mine is dependent on the fortunes of the global coal market, which has seen a continued downward trend in recent years.

In an email, Thomas Hoffman, vice president of communications at Walter Energy, said "It is typical in the permitting process that the size of the mine and the description of the operation be drawn to indicate what might be the theoretical or possible maximum production or size of the operation. That said, any actual expansion we might do beyond the mine’s current minimal production status would be triggered only by a sustained improvement in the market.

Edited from various sources by Sam Dodson

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