TWO people are understood to be protesting at the site to an opencast coal mine this morning by blocking the site entrance.

The protesters have used a lock-on device to form a human barrier at the gates to the Bradley site, between Leadgate and Dipton, near Consett, County Durham.

This is the latest move in a protracted row over plans by Banks Group to begin opencast extraction of 500,000 tonnes of coal from the site.

Banks Group has planning permission, following a lengthy legal battle between UK Coal and protestors, but the company only has until June 3 to complete road works and start removing coal from the land.

The activists intend to slow down Banks' preparatory work on the site so that the company falls short of planning requirements.

The protracted row has seen bailiffs brought in to tear down a protest camp named the Pont Valley Protection Camp and Durham Constabulary has arrested a total of 14 people for offences including aggravated trespass and assault.

It is understood that none of those arrested so far have been permanent residents of County Durham.

A spokesperson for the protestors said the two people involved live at High Stables, the nearest houses to the site, and have not taken direct action before but felt they had ‘no choice but to physically stop work’.

One of them said: “It has taken me a long time and a lot of thought to end up where I am today.

“I have watched this area, and the community in which I am very much part of, fight this opencast application for my whole life.

“I have enjoyed the valley from being a very small child, and can't imagine it not being there for my children one day to enjoy.”

The other, Thomas Davison, said: “I live in Pont Valley only 300 meters away from the contested opencast project.

"I have the right to defend my house from earth tremors caused by frequent dynamite explosions. I have the right to defend my community from harmful dust pollution. I have the right to defend the wildlife and ecosystems I have grown up with my whole life that would be destroyed. I have the right to defend our global climate against the destructive burning of fossil fuels.”