This morning at 08:30am around 25 private bailiffs, supported by 10 police, began their dawn assault to evict the Mainshill Solidarity Camp in South Lanarkshire. The bailiffs are acting on behalf of landowner Lord Home (1) who is set to profit from allowing Scottish Coal to extract 1.7 million tonnes of coal from Mainshill Wood near the village of Douglas.
Despite the formidable police and bailiff operation, camp members are staying put down their tunnels and behind their barricades, fortified towers and tree houses. Numbers at the camp have swelled over the weekend with people arriving from across the country. The eviction could take weeks and cost the land owner millions (2) and it is hoped that the delay to the mine and the price of eviction will deter those who want to develop new coal projects in the UK.
The camp was occupied 7 months ago in solidarity with communities in the Douglas Valley who have been fighting the plans for ten years. As such it was well received with many supplies donated by the camp’s neighbours including a full Christmas dinner. The setting up of the camp has heralded a campaign of direct action against the mining of Mainshill, a necessary step after the 650 letters of objection to the mine were disregarded when South Lanarkshire Council which granted permission to the application.
The communities have been blighted by the detrimental health impacts of the 4 existing open casts in the immediate area (3). Harry Thompson, former chairman of the Douglas Community Council (4), said:
“Despite massive community opposition to the mine at Mainshill, Scottish Coal and South Lanarkshire Council continue to disregard the interests of those living in proximity to the mines. The particulate matter released in the open cast mining process in this area has caused unusually high rates of cancer and lung disease. Granting permission to a new mine 1000 metres from the local hospital is the final straw”.
Mining in the Douglas Valley is intended to feed Britain’s increasing reliance on coal as an energy source. Coal taken from the proposed mine at Mainshill will result in the release of 3.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere if burned. If this and the other 18 proposed mines in Scotland go ahead it will be a massive contributor to climate change, and prevent Scotland’s climate bill from succeeding.
With the recent failure of the UN Framework on Climate Change in Copenhagen to reach a deal, communities worldwide will continue to be displaced and suffer from the mining and combustion of coal. One camper, Anna Key, expressed her determination to create positive change in the face of redundant political processes:
“I can’t do anything directly about the ocean becoming more acidic or melting icebergs but those things will only continue if we keep burning fossil fuels and accepting a culture that insists on the pursuit of profit through the exploitation of people and the environment. By acting in solidarity with community struggles we can stop this – there’s nothing else to be doing but digging up roads and building barricades.”
Those occupying the site have vowed to stay as long as possible, and resist any attempts to remove them. Doug Well, who is resisting eviction in a fortified tunnel, said:
“We’ve been here for so long now, and we really don’t want to leave. If this mine goes ahead it really will be a tragedy for the local people and for the climate. I’m going to do everything I can to make it as hard as possible for them to remove me.”
The eviction will take a few days, and there is still lots to do. The camp still needs your support, so try and make it to mainshill if you can. Contact site phone 07806926040 .
For interviews from the camp including people in defences please ring: 07500163480
(1) Lord Home is Chairman of Coutt’s bank, the corporate wing of RBS, and is currently being investigated for alleged fraud. See http://www.nowpublic.com/world/coutts-bank-chairman-lord-home-named-carr…
(2) A protest camp at Dalkeith in 2006 cost £1.9 million and took 11 days to evict.
(3) Information on the health impacts of open cast mines can be found in the Douglasdale Edition of the Coal Health Study online: http://coalhealthstudy.files.wordpress.com/2009/09/douglasdale_v42.pdf
(4) The Douglas Community Council has been staunchly against the open cast and has supported the Mainshill Solidarity Camp since the start, http://www.douglascommunitycouncil.info.