Protesters have chained themselves to equipment and blockaded the entrance at a Northumberland opencast mine site.
They targeted the Shotton surface mine, which is operated by The Banks Group, as it is on land belonging to Viscount Matt Ridley – a prominent climate change sceptic.
Workers were unable to get to the site this morning and a number of them were told to go to the nearby Northumberlandia car park and await developments.
It has been reported that four protesters climbed down into the mine and fastened themselves to a 500-tonne coal excavator.
A banner stating ‘Keep it in the ground’ is being held up at the entrance and other protesters are handcuffed to each another with their arms in a drainage pipe.
They are also urging people to support the Save Druridge Group. It is opposing Banks’ planning application for opencast operations at the Highthorn site – land to the north of the C116 which runs between the villages of Widdrington and Druridge.
One of the group, Ellen Gibson, said: “We are taking this action to highlight the damage being done by burning coal in the UK and Matt Ridley’s self-interest in making his comments about climate change given his links with the industry.
“We need to be phasing out coal power in the UK in the next decade. We need to be keeping fossil fuel in the ground and focus much more on renewable energy sources.
“We are also here in solidarity with the Save Druridge Group. Not only would the approval of the Highthorn application be terrible for the land, it would also be terrible for the Northumberland coastline, which is very important for tourism in the area.
“People who support our views can support and/or take part in the People’s March for Climate, Justice and Jobs in London, Cardiff and Edinburgh on November 28 and 29. At a local level, we urge them to submit their objections over the Highthorn plans to Northumberland County Council.”
Viscount Ridley has written at length in recent years about the ‘immense economic, environmental and moral benefits’ of fossil fuels. He is the landowner at Shotton via his Blagdon estate, which provides a home for around 40 North East businesses and supports numerous local charity, school and community activities.
Robert Downer, chief executive at The Blagdon Estate, said: “The surface mines that are based partly on Blagdon Estate land support more than 200 jobs, as well as many other businesses in the local supply chain, and the recent loss of several thousand regional jobs through the closure of the SSI steelworks at Redcar demonstrates the continuing importance of this type of large-scale employment to the North East of England.
“These operations also allow significant funding to be allocated towards improving a wide range of local community and tourism facilities, which otherwise simply would not be available from any other source.
“I know that Matt Ridley has always been clear and open about his mining interests, as well as on his views on climate and energy policy, and that he has also been a champion of utilising shale gas – coal’s main rival – as a suitable future source of energy production.
“I also have no doubt that he will continue to voice and defend his opinion on a wide range of issues, as he is perfectly entitled to do.”
The video was filmed and produced by Jane Coltman.