PLANS that could pave the way for a surface coal mine on the southern edge of Powys to become a £100 million train testing centre have been submitted.

As the mine straddles the county boundary, Celtic Energy Limited has lodged the plans to restore the Nant Helen surface mine with both Powys County Council and Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council.

The project is seen as a vital part of the recovery of the Welsh economy following the coronavirus pandemic.

Celtic Energy wants create two looped landform platforms, allowing the site to support a variety of future uses including agriculture, woodland, nature conservation, leisure, tourism and employment.

Simon Jones, Welsh Government director economic infrastructure, said:  “If ever there was a time in to maintain momentum and demonstrate continued and positive progress to Welsh ministers,the UK government and the private sector in the UK and internationally, it is now.

“As we begin to confront the task of economic recovery from the Covid-19 crisis the project represents a rare and vital inward investment opportunity to progress a multi-million pound infrastructure project here in Wales.”

Damian Barry of Ove Arup and Partners Limited, explained the proposal on behalf of Celtic Energy in a design and access statement.

Mr Barry said; “The proposed earthworks would provide a landform that is compatible with Welsh Government’s emerging proposals for a global centre of rail excellence and if the project is found to be viable it could form an integral part of the site’s future.”

In May 2019, PCC joined  the Welsh Government and NPTBC in a joint venture to develop the rail-testing track.

Last year, coal mining was allowed to re-start and is set to continue up to December 31, 2021.

Restoration work to the site is supposed to be finished by June 2023.

The site had been mothballed by Celtic Energy in October 2016.

But as another mine came to the end of its productive life, the company needed to use the coal left at Nant Helen, so that it could honour its existing contracts.

The restoration fund stands at £19.5million and Celtic Energy is expected to look after the site for 10 years.