SEVERAL activists have been arrested after invading a County Durham opencast coalmine and occupying machinary.

In the early hours of this morning, activists are entered Field House mine, near West Rainton. Elswhere, they blockaded Shotton mine, near Cramlington, in Northumberland.

The Northern Echo: Activists at Field House Mine, near West RaintonActivists at Field House Mine, near West Rainton

One of the protestors told The Northern Echo that the action aims to 'stop mining companies from continuing to dig up coal, destroying the surrounding environment and contributing to the climate catastrophe'.

Those taking part are said to come from the North East, around the UK and abroad.

They claim the region has become a 'sacrifice zone for continued economic growth at the cost of the global climate, local environment and community health'. 

The Northern Echo:

There is a significant security and police presence at Field House, West Rainton, this morning

Field House opencast started in 2018 and is operated by Hargreaves Surface Mining.

Activists claim to be occupying machinery onsite, despite attempts to intervene by security staff. 

A number of police vehicles are now at the scene and the entrance to the site is blocked by vehicles.

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “Officers are currently on scene at a protest at Field House Quarry, near West Rainton. A number of arrests have been made at the site for offences of assault and criminal damage.”

A spokesperson for Hargreaves, which runs Field House, said: “We’re mining the Fieldhouse Farm site in line with the planning permission granted. 

"We continue to work closely with the local community during the operational phase of the site, including support for local schemes through provision of a community fund, and will deliver a first class restoration scheme upon completion.”

The Northern Echo:

The entrance to Field House Surface Mine, between West Rainton and Pittington, this morning  Picture: GAVIN ENGELBRECHT

At the same time, protestors have blocked a road to the Shotton site, ran by Banks.

Gavin Styles, executive director at The Banks Group, says: “This latest targeting of our legitimate business operations by a small number of protestors, most of whom have once again come from outside the North East with the sole intention of causing disruption, is not only potentially dangerous, but also ill-thought-out and illogical.

“The UK currently needs between five and six million tonnes of coal just to supply a range of essential industrial customers, such as for the steel and cement we need to improve the UK’s infrastructure and for heritage railways and their importance to local tourism. 

"Even if surface mining in the UK stopped tomorrow, this enduring need would undeniably remain."
He added: “The Banks Group is perhaps unique in having used revenues generated from coal mining operations to drive its successful diversification into the onshore wind sector over the last 15 years and we continue to fully support a stable transition to a low carbon economy.
“We are grateful to the authorities for their ongoing assistance, advice and actions today, and to our staff for their professional response to the interruption to their work.”

The Northern Echo:

A road block at the coal mining site at Shotton, in Northumberland