THE Welsh Government still doesn't know when the precise locations of high-risk coal tips will be made public, the minister responsible has confirmed.

The admission came as the government launched its White Paper on coal tip safety, along with plans to form a new supervisory authority to monitor the waste heaps.

"We do intend to make the data public, but only when we're certain we've got it 100 percent right," Climate minister Julie James told The National this week.

"What we don't want to do is set any hares running, or frighten people unnecessarily.

"We want to make sure the regimes are in place and the information is ready to go - so people can be reassured, and we don't have people feeling the need to move or sell up or whatever, because that will be completely unnecessary."

On Thursday the minister announced plans to introduce a new law that would strengthen council and government powers to inspect and stabilise Wales's 2,500 remaining coal tips.

As part of these proposals, the government intends to create a new specialised supervisory body that will oversee the new safety regime.

James said that releasing the location of the highest risk tips would "not necessarily" have to wait untill all these changes were in place.

However, asked whether she herself had an idea of when this information would be made public, James said: "No, I don't.

"We're going to do it when it's the right time."

The National Wales: Scarring left on the mountainside in Tylorstown, following the 2020 tip collapse. (Picture: Jon Pountney)Scarring left on the mountainside in Tylorstown, following the 2020 tip collapse. (Picture: Jon Pountney)

The Law Commission of England and Wales announced a review into the law governing coal tip safety in June 2021, after heavy rain during Storm Dennis in early 2020 caused a tip in Tylorstown, Rhondda Cynon Taff, to collapse.

It's feared that as the climate crisis increases the likelihood of extreme weather events, the risk of tip collapses could become more immediate.

Under existing law, councils can order the owner of a coal tip on private land to carry out stabilisation and repair work, or even undertake the work itself, but they can only do so if the tip has moved to such an extent that they judge a collapse is relatively imminent.

A 12 week consultation on the Welsh Government's new proposals will now run until August, "to make sure that people are happy with the regime that's been set out".

The climate minister denied that progress could have been made more quickly.

"We had a view about the adequacy of the [current] legislation, but what we didn't have - because it's such a complex area - is an idea of what to replace it with," she added.

"We want to properly replace the old legislation, without any unintended consequences."

Asked whether there may have been any complacency on the issue of coal tip safety by previous Welsh and UK Government administrations, James said: "I'm afraid I just don't understand the premise of that.

"This is isn't a sudden reaction to something - it's a piece of work that's been ongoing for a very long time.

"The Law Commission has been very thorough with it - we certainly aren't suddenly reacting to something."

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It's estimated that the cost of making tips in Wales safe could surpass £500 million, but the UK Government has so far maintained that funding the works is the sole responsibility of the Welsh Government.

"We're extremely annoyed and upset," James said.

"This is quite clearly a legacy issue - coal tips didn't arise in the last 20 years of devolution, this is a several hundreds of years-old problem.

"The idea that the UK Government has washed its hands of any responsibility, it's quite outrageous - and I think, you know, most of the people of Wales still agree with us that it's outrageous.

"At the same time, we need to make sure that people are well served, kept safe, and that the tips are monitored and maintained in an appropriate fashion.

"So we will do that, while we continue to put a lot of pressure on the UK Government to step up to some responsibility in this regard.

"I certainly will raise it at every possible opportunity with the relevant ministers."

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