Opencast mining could be used to extract coal from a regeneration site in the heart of the Black Country that has been described as one of the most contaminated in Europe.
Exploratory drilling has already started on the 11-hectare site of the former James Bridge Copper Works next to junction 10 of the M6 in Walsall with a view to eventually transforming the area for business use and creating up to 4,000 jobs.
The site, now called Phoenix 10, is one of the assets currently being disposed of by Advantage West Midlands and mineral extraction and remediation firm Parkhill Estates, based in Newport in Shropshire, has been identified as preferred purchaser of the site with the backing of Walsall Borough Council.
According to the council, the cost of remediating the land and then developing it would be in the region of £18 million, £12 million of which would be provided by Parkhill with a further £6 million coming from Government grants.
While the huge cost of the remediation work would make the extraction of significant amounts of coal very welcome, councillor Adrian Andrew, deputy leader of Walsall Council and cabinet member for regeneration, said the main focus for the council was cleaning up the long-derelict site.
He said: “I think the simple truth is that Parkhill Estates has a good track record with the work they did at Reedswood in the borough.
“We introduced them to AWM some time ago and they are now carrying out exploratory works as to what is in the ground. There is a possibility that as part of the remedial works there may be coal to come out but it is very much part of the remediation.”
The former IMI site, which straddles the M6, has stood idle for a number of years and is bedevilled by problems with access as well as its close proximity to large residential areas of the borough and a local secondary school.
Despite the possibility of opencast mining being mentioned in AWM’s disposal document was published last year, the council has not spoken publicly about the potential for coal extraction until now after the issue was first raised by local blogger The Mushroom.