Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Lady Of The North & My Thoughts On Opencast Mining



Last week I had time to have a good old rummage around the lady of the North, no I don't mean that as a euphemism, I am of course referring to Northumberlandia located on the western fringes of Cramlington, Northumberland. 
She was created using excess clay, rock and soil from the Shotton surface mine which is located a stones throw west from the landscaped art and was built by The Banks Group, a group surrounded by controversy at the moment due to their proposed plans for an opencast up the coast near Druridge Bay, hence the 'Save Druridge' campaign. 
You may have seen signs up the Northumbrian coast, articles on TV or activity on social networks. The debate goes on and my lack of research into the proper plans and management strategy have left me without a solid opinion either way on that specific proposal. 
Yeah, open casting looks dark and bleak but is it really all that bad? 
The areas of habitat that surround opencasts both active and being restored, play host to a wealth of wildlife species. The rough grasslands, scrubland and plantations which surround Northumberlandia for example are home to a variety of fauna. On my visit I observed Meadow Pipits, Brown Hare, Grey Heron, Skylark and multiple species of birds of prey. Within the plantation I witnessed numerous Woodcock,  multiple Tit species, Goldcrest, Bullfinch, Robin, Dunnock, Song Thrush and Roe Deer tracks.
Kestrel feeding on the plantation edge at Northumberlandia.
Patch Gold! A Cramlington first for me and a treat to see, a Peregrine hunting over the Shotten Opencast. Unfortunately this shot is heavily cropped as the bird was some distance away.
The highlight of my wander around Northumberlandia was the brief view I had of an adult Peregrine flying directly over the working opencast, a bird as stunning and elusive as a Peregrine is clearly unphased by the goings on of a noisy and busy working opencast mine. Is it a sign that perhaps opencasts aren't as bad for our wildlife as some suggest! 

It is evident to me that wildlife does adapt and even thrive in these areas and the rough untamed habitats are ideal for them to flourish, but from a human perspective I will agree that yes they are very noisy locations. The almost constant sounds of digging and drilling echoing from the pit and the eerie booms of regular explosions and the wails of alarm sirens going off at the Shotton Opencast, Cramlington prove this point, but is it a good idea?
That's an opinion that has divided many and is an entirely personal one.

The choice is yours....

Below I have provided a few links worth looking through if your interested in the future of the Druridge opencast, they are however all fairly anti-Opencast. Make of it what you will;
http://www.savedruridge.co.uk/
http://www.northumberlandgazette.co.uk/news/local-news/opencast-mine-plan-unveiled-1-5865800
http://www.savedruridge.co.uk/about-the-proposal/
http://www.thejournal.co.uk/news/north-east-news/huge-druridge-bay-opencast-mine-5117230

David D
Nature North East/ The Northern Owl Project