Decommissioning, Site Restoration and Aftercare

The Broad Alliance members are unequivocal in their call for a ban on UOG extraction. We therefore decline to make any suggestions or proposals about decommissioning because we do not believe this industry has any place in Scotland.

However, our concerns over the consistent failure to safely decommission dirty industries in Scotland is one component of our insistence that this industry should not be permitted.

As a former producer of coal, lead and of course, shale oil, Scotland has a legacy of dereliction, in all senses of the word.

There are significant long term economic impacts in financing a robust monitoring regime in perpetuity. The Scottish government and local authorities have had to invest public funds in dealing with this problem and in fact the entire history of polluting industries is one of transferring clean-up costs from the companies who have profited from the industry to the public purse.

The Environment Agency report Abandoned mines and the water environment[1] notes that 45 River water bodies in Scotland are at risk of failing to meet their Water Framework Directive targets of good chemical and ecological status because of abandoned mines. That is more than in any other part of Britain. These rivers carry some of the biggest discharges of metals such as cadmium, iron, copper and zinc to the seas around our shores. Seventy-two per cent of failures to achieve the cadmium quality standard in freshwater are in mined areas. In some areas, important drinking water supply aquifers are polluted or threatened by plumes of sulphate and chloride.

As well as environmental pollution, there is an economic legacy of under-development. Many decades after these industries made any contribution to the Scottish economy, the clean-up is far from complete.

The Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey (2014) shows that 18% of the vacant derelict land in Scotland is still former extractive industry land.[2] This is down from a total of 35% in the 1990 survey, an indication of how difficult and expensive this process is. The survey also shows a clear correlation between deprivation and living adjacent or close to derelict land.

Most of the land referred to is in the Midland Valley, Fife and Lanarkshire. Around Canonbie are former lead mines. It is shocking to think that these are exactly the areas being lined up for UGOE.

20% of derelict land in Scotland is former Ministry of Defense Land. Here also it has been extremely difficult to convince the MoD to clean up after itself – the radioactive pollution at Dalgety Bay is a case in point.

The cost of cleaning up after the nuclear power station at Dounreay is £1.6bn and rising. Also included must be the costs of cleaning up all the other nuclear facilities now coming to the end of their useful lives.

20% of derelict land is former manufacturing sites, and here too we note that the cost of clean-up frequently ends up being financed form the public purse.

More recently, it has become clear that the Scottish government will have to pay for the clean-up costs of contaminated land at Dalzell and Clydebridge as part of the deal to sell these steel works to Liberty. Tata Stell will not be footing the bill.

The North Sea oil industry will cause pollution for decades, because as the drilling industry admits, all disused wells will eventually leak. The same is true of disused or abandoned fracking wells, as studies in the US shows. 

The financial security mechanisms used in other fossil fuel industries have simply not worked, whether bonds or insurances or vain hopes of corporate social responsibility.


Abandoned Mines and the water environment, Environment Agency, 2008

Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2014, Scottish Government National Statistics Publication

Interactive maps

Cornell University study of fracking well leaks in the Marcellus Shale

[1] Abandoned Mines and the water environment, Environment Agency, 2008

[2] Scottish Vacant and Derelict Land Survey 2014, Scottish Government National Statistics Publication