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Wildlife crime results in £10,000 fine for coal mining company

08/08/2010 14:13:43

First prosecution of its kind

August 2010: A coal mining company has been fined £10,000 at Ayr Sheriff Court after it admitted carrying out damaging operations on a nationally important wildlife site. It is the first time a Scottish court has imposed a fine under legislation to protect such sites.

Aardvark TMC Limited, a subsidiary of ATH Resources plc, was charged with offences under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, for carrying out damaging operations without the prior agreement of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and causing damage to peatland on the Muirkirk Uplands Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The company was in the process of expanding its open cast coal mine at Grievehill near New Cumnock in East Ayrshire.

The company pleaded guilty to the charge of carrying out damaging operations on the site without the prior agreement of SNH.

Sheriff McGowan warned that the immediate reaction of developers in such cases must be to contact Scottish Natural Heritage for advice. In limiting the size of the fine, the Sheriff took account of the plea and the high cost to the company of putting in place measures which will help repair the damaged peatland.

Ross Johnston, SNH area manager said: ‘The Muirkirk Uplands has some of Scotland's best peatland habitat and has high numbers of breeding birds, including hen harriers, short-eared owl and golden plover. While we regret that the damage happened at all, we welcome this successful prosecution in what was a highly complex case.

‘We are committed to working constructively with developers to help find a balance between economic and environmental objectives. But this case highlights the need for developers to play their part if we are to deliver sustainable economic development on these sensitive nature sites.'


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