Save Druridge Bay from an opencast coal mine

Guy Shrubsole

14 February 2016

Beautiful Druridge Bay in Northumberland is threatened by a giant opencast coal mine.

As the Independent reports today, a coal mining firm, Banks Mining, are dead-set on gouging out a 3-million-tonne opencast coal mine just behind the stunning white sand beaches and wildlife-rich dunes of Druridge Bay. This map shows you just how vast the mine would be – and how it’s one of the only parts of the area left spared from opencast mining.

Help stop an opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay

Druridge Bay - photo by Ian Cook

If you’re not familiar with opencast coal mining, you can see an example of it below – this is the Ffos-y-fran mine in Wales, run by Miller Argent:

Ffos-y-fran coal mine - photo by Eddy Blanche

I recently visited Druridge Bay to meet with people locally who are campaigning against the proposed coal mine – including the Save Druridge group, Alnwick Friends of the Earth, and Newcastle Greenpeace.

Locals and campaigners survey Druridge Bay
Lynne Tate, of the Save Druridge campaign group

Lynne, above, helps run the Save Druridge campaign. From Tyneside originally, she moved here for the area’s peace and quiet – but then found out about the plans for the mine, and knew she had to fight them. “It’s such a beautiful area,” says Lynne. “If it goes ahead I know it will affect the landscape for the rest of my life.” 

Local businessman Duncan Lawrence

Duncan, above, runs the Drift Café next to Druridge Bay, named after a 1950s drift mine that was on this site. But today the businesses booming in Northumberland are tourism businesses, not the extractive industries. Duncan’s café employs some 16 staff, and when I visited it, it was bustling with customers. Duncan is involved in the Save Druridge campaign and is very worried about the impact the proposed mine would have on the area, including his business.

After all, people visit Duncan’s café not just for the great food and coffee, but for the beautiful beach nearby. Duncan tells me that sometimes he’s seen the Northern Lights from the beach – but that this stunning natural spectacle would be rendered invisible by light pollution if the proposed mine, with its glaring overhead lights, is allowed to go ahead. He shows me photos of the gorgeous sunsets they get regularly at Druridge Bay, and the birds’ nests he’s found in the dunes (pictured below). Why jeopardise all this, for the sake of a coal company’s profits?

Sunset over Druridge Bay, by Duncan Lawrence
Birds' eggs at Druridge Bay, by Duncan Lawrence

Rakesh, pictured above talking to me, is involved in a Greenpeace group in Newcastle. He helped set up a network opposing fossil fuel extraction of all kinds in the area, including the threat of coal gasification under the sea off the Northumberland coast. When he found out about the proposed mine at Druridge, he wanted to help, and is organising events in Newcastle to raise awareness – after all, many people living in the city visit Druridge Bay as it’s their nearest unspoiled beach.

The community around Druridge Bay has fought off threats like these before. In the 1980s, the exact same spot now being proposed for an opencast coal mine was threatened with plans for two nuclear power stations. But a concerted campaign by locals, helped by Friends of the Earth and supporters across the country, saw the plans dropped. Indeed, one element of their campaign – a cairn built by visitors to the area to mark their opposition to the nuclear plans – is still visible today, though it’s now a bit smaller than it once was!

The cairn at Druridge Bay, built in the 1980s to oppose a nuclear power station

Druridge Bay is no less beautiful today than it was in the 1980s. And with the threat of climate change looming large, it’s doubly important we work together to stop a hideous opencast coal mine from ripping up this stunning landscape. It’s time to save Druridge Bay!

Take action:

Help stop an opencast coal mine at Druridge Bay

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Ian Cook Druridge aerial photo.jpg