It is a scar on the landscape, a gaping hole devoid of any life or charm, but one that is to form the basis of Scotlandâ€™s biggest public artwork.
The opencast St Ninianâ€™s mine is to be transformed into the Fife Earth Project, a 665-acre park designed by the landscape architect Charles Jencks. The park, which was given approval by Fife Council, will feature a loch in the shape of Scotland, surrounded by four geometrically shaped mounds representing the continents Scotland and its people has influenced. A network of paths will allow visitors to walk and cycle around the park, which is expected to become a haven for a diverse range of birds and other wildlife.
Scottish Coal, which commissioned the multi-million-pound artwork, had originally intended to turn the opencast mine into grazing land but after one of its directors saw Jencksâ€™s award-winning work Landform Ueda at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art an alternative plan was drawn up.
Scottish Coal, which is now known as Scottish Resources Group, hopes that the Fife Earth Project will become a major tourist attraction.
Theo Philip, planning manager for the group, said: â€œOne of its prime assets is its location on a main route through Scotland, and there is also the fact that it is designed by Charles Jencks, who is internationally renowned. The land art movement is growing across the UK so we think this could become a significant attraction.â€
Although the concept for the mounds is similar to the Pyramids, a series of grass sculptures located just off the M8 in West Lothian, Mr Philip said that the Fife Earth Project would be much larger and more dramatic. â€œThe principle is the same but in terms of scale it will dwarf the M8 Pyramids. Hopefully, in terms of impact, it will be more like the Angel of the North in Gateshead.â€
Jencks said: â€œOf all the things Iâ€™ve done, it has to be the biggest. It's a very inspiring project. Itâ€™s extremely exciting,â€
He said that he had been inspired by his Scottish heritage and the way in which the Scottish diaspora has helped to shape the world. â€œMy mother was a Macduff, from Fife. As an American who has resettled here â€” Iâ€™ve been here 45 years â€” there is this immediate interest in the way Scots take their life and culture to new places.
â€œThere are 40 million people of Scots descent overseas and five million here. However you count a Scot, theyâ€™ve punched above their weight. We knew there would water, so Scotland should be water. Scotloch is what everyone will look down at.â€
Construction of the artwork will take about two years and provide jobs for most of the 89 staff employed at present at the mine at Kelty. It could help to regenerate the local economy by bringing in new businesses.
Alex Rowley, a local councillor, said that the scheme would have national status as one of the largest artworks in Britain.
â€œProfessor Charles Jencks is a world-renowned land artist and his design will put his area on the tourist map of Britain,â€ he said. â€œI have always believed that tourism in Fife has not been fully exploited and this project will bring a welcome addition to the many facilities in west and central Fife that we must now take full advantage of.â€
A steering group, consisting of local representatives, tourism managers and the Scottish Resources Group, will now be formed to decide how best to market the site and lure motorists to the site from the M90.
This looks like a really great outcome for a redundant site.