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Ewing in call for coal levies to restore old mines

SCOTLAND'S energy minister has renewed his call for his London counterpart to ensure at least some of the coal levies raised from coal produced in Scotland be made available to restore opencast sites here.

This is the third plea from Fergus Ewing to UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon after environmental and conservation groups warned there was a £200 million shortfall in the amount set aside by coal firms to restore former mines because insurance policies intended to pay for restoration work might be "almost worthless".

Mr Ewing, who has written to Mr Fallon twice on the issue and says he has yet to receive any reply, said: "As the chair of the Scottish Coal Taskforce, a key priority to move forward with restoration of opencast coal mines is engagement and collaborative working. Collaboration with Scottish and UK Government, agencies, local councils, community groups, coal operators, regulators and unions to work together and bring expertise to the table is vital to secure appropriate restoration.

"However with a financial shortfall in restoration costs it makes sense that the money collected by the UK Government over the years from coal mined in Scotland be put to good use to help with the restoration of opencast sites. We understand the levy income collected from Scotland to date is within the region of £15m.

"This money - or at the very least a proportion of it - should now be put to good use to help with the restoration of opencast sites."

Last month, the appeals division of the Court Of Session ruled that owners of non-operational opencast mines cannot abandon them without fulfilling obligations to clean them up. That left liquidators of the Scottish Coal Company facing huge costs after they were told they could not walk away from sites and use the money to pay off creditors.

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