Scottish hen harriers, golden plovers and mining pollution


This BBC video is about hen harriers in Scotland.

From Wildlife Extra:

Important court ruling on the mining industry and hen harrier and golden plover habitat in Scotland

December 2013: In a landmark ruling for environmental protection, the Scottish Courts recently ruled that liquidators of collapsed coal companies cannot just abandon polluted mine sites in order to protect funds for their creditors.

Two sites in particular, Grievehill and Powharnal in the Muirkirk and North Lowther Upland of East Ayrshire have been giving cause for concern, said Alexa Morrison, Climate and Energy Policy Officer for RSPB Scotland. “These are areas of international importance and are specially protected. For hen harriers, short-eared owls, merlin, peregrines and golden plovers there is a loss of foraging habitat and disturbance to breeding areas. We’ve seen from past sites that proper restoration of the land hasn’t happened, and we haven’t seen the level of habitat enhancement that we have hoped for.”

Mining interests are subject to statutory requirements to not only to manage sites in an environmentally beneficial way while mining is taking place, but also to restore habitats to their original state when they leave a site, fencing in areas that could present a potential hazard to the public and enhancing the environment for the benefits of wildlife and local residents. This ruling transfers those responsibilities to the liquidators in the case of a company that has gone into receivership.

Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, said: “We are very pleased with this decision, which has reversed what would have been a terrible precedent for environmental protection in Scotland. It essentially says that polluting industries cannot come into Scotland, profit from trashing the environment, and then simply abandon the land when things go wrong, escaping from their responsibilities to clean up any damage caused to people and wildlife”.

In cases where coal mining or peat extraction activities have ceased, RSPB Scotland advises on the best options for restoration – woodland, wetland or wild flower meadow, for instance – but the costs can be high. “Restoring peat land and wetland can be very difficult and costly,” said Morrison. “So we have to base our advice on the maximum beneficial effects that can be achieved with available funds.”

The fact that this latest ruling has been necessary, calls into question the need for even more care over future licences and planning consents granted to mining projects to ensure that wildlife habitat is not adversely affected in the future.

The Scottish Government is now consulting on reforming how the open cast coal industry is regulated in Scotland. It is crucial that this process ensures that in future, companies provide enough funds for restoration and environmental protection at the outset, to ensure that there is no lasting legacy of environmental damage at any future sites.

Helping hen harriers on Dutch Texel island: here.

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5 thoughts on “Scottish hen harriers, golden plovers and mining pollution

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