Extinction Rebellion in second day of protest at open cast mine site

By Tom Wilkinson, PA

Around 50 Extinction Rebellion protesters have got on to an open cast mine site to shut down work for a second day.

They scaled fences at the Banks Group’s Bradley site in County Durham at around 8am on Thursday, despite the presence of security guards with dogs.

Protester Paul Shepherd, a 66-year-old retired GP, said the first moments of the occupation were “scary”.

He said they made it clear they would not attempt to damage any of the site’s heavy plant equipment and their intention is only to occupy the site to shut down work.

Dr Shepherd, from nearby Lanchester, said they had stated their intentions to security guards and on that basis, the dogs had not been released on them.

He said: “Our aim is to highlight the continued use of these fossil fuels and to stimulate conversation about how it is so important to make change.

Protesters at the site on Wednesday dressed as canaries (Owen Humphreys/PA)

“There are lots of reasons to maintain the status quo but science shows we have to change rapidly in order to prevent catastrophic climate change.

“There are lot of highly motivated people here from all walks of life.

“We hope Banks shareholders sell their shares or put pressure on the management to divest from coal.

“Money does speak.”

On Wednesday, Extinction Rebellion campaigners blocked access to the site, with some protesters dressed as canaries sitting in cages at the mine entrance.

They stated their opposition to Banks’ planning application to expand the site.

The Banks mining company said coal is necessary for the steel and cement industries, and if it is not produced in Britain even more would be brought in from Australia or Russia.

In a statement, company spokesman Mark Dowdall called the protesters “privileged fools” who had put themselves and others at risk, and he condemned them for stopping local workers from doing their jobs.

He added: “Until viable alternatives are in place, five to six million tonnes of coal will still be needed each year in the UK as a raw material for our steel and cement industries, and domestic production of this essential mineral offsets the amount of coal that British industry is forced to import, which brings with it significantly higher levels of greenhouse gas emissions.”