Minister for Environment, Planning and Countryside Carwyn Jones said the guidance strikes a balance between the need to safeguard coal supplies, allowing development for the benefit of the local economy, and environmental and health concerns.
'Coal is vital to our economy and we must safeguard future access to supplies. However, we must not do this at the expense of the quality of life of people living near potential extraction sites. The guidance provides technical advice to Minerals Planning Authorities on how to balance these conflicting demands.
'The majority of the Technical Advice Group, which informed this policy, recommended a minimum buffer zone of 200 metres between opencast mines and nearby housing. Acknowledging the level of public concern about opencast mining, the Welsh Assembly Government has decided to go beyond this and raise the distance to 350 metres.
'Anything greater than 350 metres would appear to have a damaging effect on the coal industry in Wales, and would severely limit our ability to supply the energy we depend on for our everyday needs.
'This precautionary approach seeks to maintain and improve the quality of life in line with the Welsh Assembly Government's vision set out in 'Wales - A Better Country' and its commitment to social justice, to health, and to developing strong and safe communities.'
The Draft Coal Minerals Technical Advice Note was presented to the Environment, Planning and Countryside Committee of the National Assembly for Wales today.
The draft TAN sets out planning policy for Coal, supplementary to the guidance given in Minerals Planning Policy Wales (MPPW) of December 2000.
The TAN contains comprehensive guidance on:
Providing coal resources to meet Society's needs;
Protecting areas of importance;
Reducing the impact of coal extraction; and
Achieving a high standard of restoration, aftercare and afteruse.
The Technical Advice Group (TAG) included representatives of key stakeholders from the industry, environmental groups and local communities.
The deadline for comments to the Welsh Assembly Government on the draft TAN is 28 April.