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Paul Maliphant will reflect on the terrible event 50 years ago at Aberfan, and apply the lessons learned to the present day. The sudden failure of the waste tip at Aberfan on 21st October 1966 killed 144 people, of which 116 were children, as the slurry swept through parts of the village, including the Pantglas Junior School. A new plaque unveiled in 2015 in remembrance of the former Merthyr Vale Colliery that fed the tip records its long history. Opened in 1875 the colliery closed in 1989 following a long and proud existence punctuated by one of the darkest days in the history of coal mining.
The plaque reads:
The corners of our memories may be eroded and softened by time but they live on in the local communities first established to house the coal miners of the colliery and their families.
The memories and the lessons learned also live on in the collective memory of ground engineering and allied professionals and the legislative legacy of the tragedy. We would be foolish to allow the vitality of such knowledge to wane with time. Every opportunity should be taken to remind ourselves and the next generation of professionals what was learnt from that darkest of days.
Today we will reflect on the events 50 years ago and refresh our professional memories.
Paul is a fellow of ICE, Chartered and European Engineering Geologist and UK Registered Ground Engineering Advisor.
He worked in the mining industry for the National Coal Board (British Coal) Opencast Executive before moving into civil engineering with Mid Glamorgan County Council, Cambrian Geotechnical, Halcrow and now Mott MacDonald as Development and Projects Director in Cardiff.
Like many Ground Engineering professionals the events of October 21st 1966 at Aberfan have influenced his whole career. From reading the Report of the Tribunal appointed to inquire into the Disaster at Aberfan through to working on a number of landslide stabilisation schemes, to first visiting the Aberfan cemetery whilst working as technical advisor on a feature film, and on to being the project manager for the delivery of primary highway and flood defence infrastructure on the site of the former Merthyr Vale Colliery he has seen the event from many perspectives.
The catastrophe was also referred to in the preface of the UK Country report on the integration of geotechnical risk management and project risk management (International Society of Soil Mechanics and Geotechnical Engineering, 2013) of which Paul was the reporter.
Whilst working on the recent infrastructure scheme to open up the former colliery surface for residential led regeneration he had the pleasure of working with the local community and the honour of drafting the memorial plaque to the Merthyr Vale Colliery unveiled at the site.