A FORMER pit manager’s long-standing claims that potentially tonnes of unexploded material could be ‘sweating’ underneath a giant site earmarked for large-scale development have been backed by a worker who claims he was responsible for filling shafts with explosives.
Codenamed MU1 in Barnsley Council’s local plan development blueprint, it is situated between Pogmoor, Higham and Barugh Green along the M1 corridor and subject of a planning application lodged by Strata Homes and Sterling Capitol, who make up the Barnsley West Consortium (BWC).
Claims made by former mine manager Edward Raven, 95, that gelignite ‘pills’ remain under the surface were recently quashed by the BWC and the Coal Authority, whose respective site probes and records show no evidence of the material being present at Craven II, a particular mine of interest given its positioning on MU1.
However, Mr Raven’s claims were corroborated this week by Michael Moran, who told the Chronicle he had packed boreholes with gelignite before visiting residents whose homes bordered Craven II.
Michael, of Norwood Drive, Barugh Green, said: “Mr Raven was my manager at the time I did this and it occurred most Saturdays.
“It involved boring holes into the ground, filling them with explosives, sealing them and visiting homes to warn them of the noise when the blasting happened.
“So many people will remember this around that area, so it is truly baffling to me that the industry bodies who really should know are saying they do not have a record of any blasting occurring.
“Mr Raven’s absolutely right in what he’s said and more site investigation work needs to happen.”
Edward, who has accused the council of adopting a ‘policy of silence’, urged the authorities to finally act.
He maintains that the opencast sites used four tonnes of dynamite every week.
“I have seen - on a number of occasions - unexploded gelignite cartridges on the site,” he added.
“Fifty and sixty years later, when the council said heavy plant machinery was being placed on the site, I was worried.
“I am still concerned about this entire situation and it should be to the council, too.
“Barugh Green locals heard their windows rattling, and the subsequent noise caused by the blasting, every Saturday at about 1pm up to the end of the 1960s.
“I was the one who pressed the button - 16-millisecond delays were set and the gelignite exploded.
“Those behind this are primarily in the pursuit of money and developing land is the prime objective, even if people have to tolerate the probability of having a bomb underneath their gardens.
“Should you arrange to build a property within an area which had a history of backfilling - just as Craven II and others did have - blasting may have taken place.
“It is a very serious problem and I cannot understand why they are effectively saying this did not happen when it clearly did.”
MU1 - subject of a 1,700-home plan and 39 hectares of employment land - is still being mulled over by planning bosses, despite the BWC submitting their bid in September 2021.
A spokesperson from the BWC said: “Based on memories, it would appear as though gelignite was used at Craven II, although the Coal Authority has no record of this.
“Gelignite is one of the cheapest forms of explosives, it burns slowly and cannot explode without a detonator, with the purpose being that it could be stored safely.
“Unless operators disposed of the explosives with the detonators attached - which we believe is highly unlikely and somewhat reckless - then it shouldn’t matter if they are present or not.
“It seems odd that the Coal Authority have no record of explosives being used at Craven II.”