The Law Commission has begun work on a project to improve the regulatory framework for coal tip safety in Wales.
A coal tip is a pile of accumulated waste material from the coal mining process. Some coal tips are very large, and some are positioned on steep slopes. Poor management of coal tips can lead to slips, resulting in disasters such as in Aberfan in 1966, when a coal tip slipped onto a primary school, resulting in the death of 116 children and 28 adults.
The current legislation was enacted following the Aberfan disaster, at a time when there was an active coal industry. However, it does not provide an effective management framework for disused coal tips – of which there are approximately 2000 in Wales – in the twenty-first century.
With the prospect of increasing rainfall intensity as a result of climate change and coal tip landslips which occurred in February 2020 following Storms Ciara and Dennis, the Welsh Government has established a Coal Tip Safety Task Force to deliver a programme of work to address the safety of coal tips in Wales. The Task Force programme will respond to immediate safety concerns and develop a new long-term policy approach to the legacy of disused coal tips. As part of this, the Welsh Government asked the Commission to complete a project in this area.
The Law Commission will identify any gaps, inconsistencies and unhelpful or outdated approaches within the legislation, and will make recommendations for a new robust, integrated and future-proofed regulatory framework.
The Law Commission is aiming to complete the project by early 2022.
Nicholas Paines QC, Commissioner for Public Law and the Law in Wales said:
“The laws regulating coal tips are outdated and reform is vital for protecting the public in Wales and minimizing the risk of another disaster occurring”.
“We will analyse where the laws no longer work and make recommendations to create an effective regulatory framework that works now and in the future.”