Environmentalists have welcomed the ruling by the Court of Session in Scotland last week, overturning an earlier decision to allow liquidators for Scottish Coal to abandon their environmental obligations at former opencast mines.
The ruling says the liquidators do not have the power to abandon the sites or their statutory licenses.
Patrick Harvie, Green MSP for Glasgow, recently raised the issue with the Auditor General, prompting her to launch an investigation.
Mr Harvie said of the verdict: "This ruling is a welcome injection of common sense, and I commend SEPA for bringing the appeal. The coal industry must face up to its legacy and fulfil its obligations to maintain and restore the environment that it has wrecked.
"While ministers continue to block a public inquiry, I hope this ruling underlines the need for an urgent look into the wider financial mess that is coal mine restoration. The public has a right to know what went wrong."
The ruling declared, in the somewhat archaic language of Court process: "The court will accordingly recall the interlocutor of the Lord Ordinary dated 11 July 2013 and direct that the liquidators do not have the power to 'abandon (otherwise disclaim)' the sites or the statutory licenses referred to in the prayer of the Note."
* The full Court of Session ruling can be read here: http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2013CSIH108.html