Speaker: Dr Peter Brabham, School of Earth & Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University

Industrial South Wales is encapsulated by the South Wales coalfield and the Ports that served the coalfield industries (Cardiff, Newport, Swansea, Llanelli etc.). Small scale coal mining began in South Wales as long ago as the Bronze Age to the 16th century Monks of Neath Abbey. However it was the advent of the industrial revolution with its insatiable demand for coal as heat energy for bulk Iron making, non-ferrous metalliferous smelting and raising steam in boilers when this demand grew dramatically. The history of coal mining and industrial development was rapid and complex but you can consider five distinct coalfield industrial zones ; the south western metalliferous smelting zone, the eastern iron and steel manufacturing zone, the north western anthracite belt, the central steam coal area and the southern crop mining zone. Each of these zones has a distinct type of coal (rank), geography and industrial history. The zenith of coal mining and exporting in South Wales was around 1913 and since this time coal mining has gradually declined to a small opencast industry today supplying direct to Aberthaw power station. The reasons for the post WWII decline of Welsh coal are many; decline in transport demand as it changed from coal to oil firing, the economics of mining coal in complex Welsh geology, cheap imports and the lack of coal fires in domestic housing to name but a few.

By using modern visualisation techniques of landscape mapping and Geographical Information Systems we attempted to show the non-geologist how this complex interaction of geological stratigraphy, structure, coal type and landscape topography has left us with a legacy in post industrial South Wales.  By appreciating this historical legacy in both temporal and spatial terms we can better identify current environmental issues and also possibly identify potential areas for future clean coal technology.

This talk incorporated research studies being carried out in collaboration with the Schools of Welsh History and Engineering.