I spent four years studying the science behind climate change. Today, I am taking the data to its logical implications. Coal has got to stop. My actions are necessary.
Dozens of people were attempting over the weekend to stop Banks Group from finishing building the access road to its Bradley site near Dipton.
Work on building the road stopped at the site at 8.30pm on Saturday after protesters locked themselves across an area where the company was trying to lay tarmac. Construction is yet to start again.
Simon Daniels, one of the blockading activists, said he planned to stay as long as possible to prevent the operations from going ahead.
“I spent four years studying the science behind climate change. Today, I am taking the data to its logical implications. Coal has got to stop. My actions are necessary,” he said.
Banks Group has permission to extract 500,000 tonnes of coal from the site. The activists claim Banks’s planning agreement means it cannot start mining operations on the site until it has completed the access road, and that because the road is not yet finished, planning permission should have expired on Sunday.
The company insists all legal permissions are in place, and that its permission has not expired because it has already formally begun mining operations.
A statement released by the company said: “Around 30 new jobs will be supported at the Bradley site when it is fully operational, along with others in the local supply chain.
“Site operations are scheduled to run for between two and three years, with all on site activity complete in 2021. Restoration will include the creation of new woodland and a nature reserve area, as well as the return of some of the land to agricultural use.”
Previous protests against the mine in April led to arrests after activists tied themselves to trees and hid in underground tunnels.
Suzanne Leigh, a local resident, said: “If Banks think we’re going to leave them be, they can think again. Local people have fought for thirty years to keep this valley green, keep the air breathable, and keep fossil fuels under the ground.
"In that time this country has moved past coal. Coal is our heritage but the valley itself is the asset we value most here.”
Alexandra Heal is a journalist and MA student at City University, London. She freelances for BBC News and is co-founder of siftguide.com. She tweets at @alexandraheal.