TWO people who were protesting at the site of an opencast coal mine have been arrested. 

The protesters used a lock-on device to form a human barrier at the gates to the Bradley site, between Leadgate and Dipton, near Consett, County Durham.

They were there for around three hours before they were arrested by Durham Police. 

The A692 was closed for several hours during the protest and a man and a woman were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway. 

Police say they had chained themselves to a device on the edge of the roadside. 

The road was reduced to one lane for safety reasons, causing considerable congestion in the surrounding area, but has since been fully reopened.

A spokesman for Durham Constabulary said: “This is a busy road which is used by around 14,000 vehicles each day and we would like to thank the community for their patience during this morning’s operation”.

This is the latest move in a protracted row over plans by Banks Group to begin opencast extraction of 500,000 tonnes of coal from the site.

Banks Group has planning permission, following a lengthy legal battle between UK Coal and protestors, but the company only has until June 3 to complete road works and start removing coal from the land.

The activists intend to slow down Banks' preparatory work on the site so that the company falls short of planning requirements.

The protracted row has seen bailiffs brought in to tear down a protest camp named the Pont Valley Protection Camp and Durham Constabulary has arrested a total of 16 people for offences including aggravated trespass and assault.

A spokesperson for the protestors said the two people involved live at High Stables, the nearest houses to the site, and have not taken direct action before but felt they had ‘no choice but to physically stop work’.

One of them said: “It has taken me a long time and a lot of thought to end up where I am today.

“I have watched this area, and the community in which I am very much part of, fight this opencast application for my whole life.

“I have enjoyed the valley from being a very small child, and can't imagine it not being there for my children one day to enjoy.”

The other, Thomas Davison, said: “I live in Pont Valley only 300 meters away from the contested opencast project.

"I have the right to defend my house from earth tremors caused by frequent dynamite explosions. I have the right to defend my community from harmful dust pollution. I have the right to defend the wildlife and ecosystems I have grown up with my whole life that would be destroyed. I have the right to defend our global climate against the destructive burning of fossil fuels.”

Farid Medjahed, 26, who was arrested on Monday, dressed as a newt, appeared at Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, charged with offences including common assault and preventing the use of tools with a view of abstention from a lawful action.

His case has been adjourned and he has been granted conditional bail until Thursday afternoon.