We heard of the Margam Coal Project (commonly referred to as the Margam Mine) some time in 2010. This project would, if it came to fruition, ensure a long-term future for Port Talbot. It was the plan to create a driftmine, with a horizontal approach from near the coke ovens into the hillside to reach the coal seams there. The coal in those seams is of coking quality, but previous attempts by Celtic Energy to extract it had come to nought, since many of the seams are severely faulted. However, the seismic maps were insufficient to establish whether seams at a lower level were less faulted, so that’s what the study was trying to do by performing more detailed 3D seismic studies.
If the study had proven that the coal could be extracted, this would have given Port Talbot its own supply of coking coal, and convert the site from a net importer to a net exporter of coking coal. It goes without saying that this would be a life saver for as long as the coal supply lasted, during which time the plant would be in a far stronger position to weather any economic storms that might come our way. The duration of the Margam Coal project was fairly open-ended, but it was assumed that we should be able to come to a decision within a year.
That’s why, when no verdict was reached by 2011, people started to have their doubts, even though it was said that the project was still alive in 2012. Still, the longer the clock kept ticking, the less chance there was that anything was going to come from the study. We heard on the grapevine that the parent company had given up on the project but that the Strip UK management continued to do further tests. And then it went quiet – not a dicky bird to state whether the plan was abandoned for the time being or for keeps. Again it was up to the grapevine to come up with the information that, as feared, the faulting affected all the coal seams that had been targeted by the study. Hence it would not be economical to try and extract them.
I suppose we should have known : if something appears too good to be true, then it usually is. People in the South Wales Geologists Association were not surprised by the outcome; in their opinion, if any coal in South Wales could be mined then it would already have been mined by now.
- 17 April 2012 – Tata says Government must help bring about £800m plan
- 11 April 2012 – First Minister in talks on future of steel
- SA13 Issue 10, October 2010 – Good vibrations about coal?