Wednesday, March 11, 2015

News: New plans for Maltby's restoration

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New plans are being prepared for the restoration of the mothballed Maltby pit site in Rotherham.

The 200 hectare colliery at Maltby was mined for over 100 years until geological conditions could not be overcome and underground operations ceased in 2013.


Owners and operators, Hargreaves decided to mothball the mine following no viable alternative solution being found to geological reports that indicated that the risks associated with mining a new panel, called T125, had not significantly reduced and that the panel is not viable on health and safety, geological, and financial grounds.

The winding tower was brought down last year and the mine shafts have been filled and capped. The future restoration scheme, included in the planning permission for the mine's operation, is "subject to some uncertainty" as the underground workings came to a premature end. Hargreaves had planned to import 675,000 tonnes of mine runoff fines, known as MRF, from nearby Hatfield Colliery and deposited in the current lagoon at Maltby. MRF is a fine slurry-like material which is formed during the washing and reclamation of coal fines (tiny coal particles).

Up until the end of October 2014, a total of approximately 400,000 tonnes of MRF had already been deposited at Maltby but members of the planning board refused the planning application for the importation of material. After the decision was made in December, enforcement action was authorised, and the operators were ordered to stop importing MRF to the site. Hargreaves is appealing against enforcement action authorised by Rotherham Council.

Now Rotherham Council has been forced to formally request a revised scheme of restoration and aftercare from Hargreaves in relation to the conditions of a previous planning permission. The site sits within the borough's Green Belt and Phase 1A of the restoration is set to focus on creating an amenity grassland on the 5.74 hectares to the south west of the site.

The importation of materials is set to create a finished land level "nominally above existing levels" and form part of the wider restoration scheme.

Despite being refused plans to import MRF to the site, Hargreaves intends to import restoration materials into Maltby now that material is no longer coming from the underground workings. This is set to include a limited range of material types which has been submitted to the Environment Agency (EA) for approval, including waste types from a list predetermined by the EA.

The MRF application was refused by the planning board, against the recommendations of the planning officer. The board concluded that "the importation of material to the site represents inappropriate development in the Green Belt as it does not relate to the material produced from the Maltby Colliery itself and as the engineering operations would not preserve the openness of the Green Belt. No very special circumstances have been demonstrated by the applicant to justify the harm and there is no indication that the operation would assist with the long term restoration of the site."

In addition, "the Council considers that the HGV vehicle movements resulting from the development are detrimental to the amenity of residents living along the route from the M18 motorway to the site and on the town centre of Maltby itself, by virtue of noise nuisance, general disturbance, and the deposition of material in the highway. This traffic generation is not related to the essential mining operation on the site or on an approved site restoration programme for Maltby Colliery which might otherwise justify such traffic generation."

The updated restoration scheme is set to result in 32 HGV movements per day as opposed to the 60 expected for the original MRF importation.

Bill Firth, director of Hargreaves Environmental Services (HES), said: "The restoration at Maltby provides a number of opportunities across the Group. For example, we can recover redundant materials from some of our existing customers, whilst also securing new customers from the organic materials treatment and water sectors. Coupled with the transport of materials to site by our Logistics Division, we can provide an integrated supply chain that is reproducible at other Hargreaves coal mining assets."

The immediate future of the site is as Maltby Energy Park, with operator Alkane Energy generating energy from the coal mine methane assets for an estimated period of up to 15 years.

In the final draft of the council's Local Plan, the majority of the Maltby site is being put forward as remaining in the green belt with a pocket of development, which includes the pit yard, associated buildings and access, not considered suitable for a business park with offices or industrial units but instead used for "for waste and energy activities."

Egdon Resources, a leading player in shale gas exploration, recently acquired the interest in the current licence to explore for the controversial energy source at Maltby.

Hargreaves Services website

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