Drax coal supply in doubt after protesters sabotage Scottish mine

The activists damaged a 6.5km conveyor belt which transports 200,000 coal each year from Glentaggart to Ravenstruther

Climate protesters today claimed to have disrupted the flow of coal from one of Scotland's largest opencast mines to the Drax power station in north Yorkshire by sabotaging an major coal conveyor belt.

The activists – who are believed to come from a Climate Camp, which opened earlier this week at Mainshill, the site of a planned opencast coalmine – damaged the conveyor belt at Glentaggart late yesterday, forcing the conveyor belt to be entirely closed down.

At 6.5km long, the conveyor belt is one of the longest in Europe and transports about 200,000 tonnes of coal each year from the Scottish Coal mine at Glentaggart to a dedicated railway depot at Ravenstruther. The company argues that the conveyor belt prevents about 30,000 lorry journeys a year. About 70% of Scottish opencast coal is sent south to power stations such as Drax in Yorkshire.

A spokesman for Scottish Coal said the conveyor belt would be out of action until tomorrow, but lorry traffic would now increase on local roads as a result of the damage. "The Glentaggart conveyor is used by Scottish Coal as a way of reducing the road transportation of coal," he said. "This reduction in road traffic responds to the wishes of the local community in Douglas."

Strathclyde police later confirmed they were investigating the incident.

The attack is the latest in a series of anti-coal protests by environment activists in Scotland, linked to last year's occupation at Kingsnorth power station in Kent and the stopping of a coal train near Drax, which lead to 22 people being convicted of obstruction last month.

Drax, one of the largest coal-fired power stations in Europe and the UK's single largest CO2 emitter, was the site of the first Climate Camp in 2006.

The Scottish protesters are now threatening to target prominent coal industry sites, including power stations, corporate headquarters and coal terminals as part of their campaign. Many are now being guarded by police, and the protesters claim police leave has been cancelled in central Scotland this weekend.

In December, six people were arrested, with four later fined £200, after protesters briefly shut down the Ravenstruther rail terminal used by Glentaggart. In February, activists targeted an opencast mine at Rosewell near Edinburgh by climbing on to diggers and trucks, but there were no arrests. Five people were arrested at Muir Dean opencast mine in Fife in March, owned by ATH Resources, after they clambered on an excavator.

Diarmaid Lynch, a spokesman for the Mainshill protestors, said: "Our understanding is that it was quite hefty damage. A whole section [of the conveyor belt] was taken down and will need repair." He added: "It was radical direct action against climate change, which is what needs to happen – it's part of what the camp is all about."

Mainshill, a forested area owned by the Earl of Home, son of the former Tory prime minister Alec Douglas-Home, near the village of Douglas, was approved for opencast coalmining in June. Scottish Coal plans to extract at least 1.7m tonnes of coal. It will be the fourth opencast site in the immediate area, and is a short distance from Glentaggart.


Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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