Rhondda Cynon Taf, or RCT, is a county borough in the south of Wales. It consists of five valleys: the Rhondda Fawr and Fach, Cynon, Taff and Ely Valleys, plus a number of towns and villages away from the valleys. Results from the 2011 census showed 19.1% of its 234,410 residents self-identified themselves as having some ability in the use of the Welsh language.
The county borough borders Merthyr Tydfil and Caerphilly to the east, Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan to the south, Bridgend and Neath Port Talbot to the west and Powys to the north. Its principal towns are Aberdare, Llantrisant with Talbot Green and Pontypridd, with other key settlements/towns being Maerdy, Ferndale, Hirwaun, Llanharan, Mountain Ash, Porth, Tonypandy, Tonyrefail and Treorchy.
The district developed from the discovery and mining, primarily for export, of high-quality Welsh coals, such as steam coal, via Cardiff and Barry docks. The landscape was dominated by coal-waste heaps and deep mine pit-heads. Many of the roads are lined with closely-packed Victorian terraces of houses which have given the Rhondda and Cynon valleys their distinctive appearance. In the 19th Century the Rhondda had over 60 mines.
As deep mines closed, a number of very large open-cast coal mines were created and remain in operation, especially towards the north of the area.
The Welsh Development Agency, which was formed in 1976 to help reverse the economic down-turn in Wales caused by the recession in both the coal and steel industries, was very active in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area in supporting and encouraging industrial and commercial regeneration. Recent investment in the area has included the Dragon International Film Studios, on the site of Llanilltyd open-cast mine. The location of the project has led it to become known locally as “Valleywood”, even though the Welsh valleys are some miles away.