Cumbria coal mine tug of war heats up as decision looms

Last-ditch arguments have been put forward from both sides of the divide as the planning inspectorate weighs up whether to approve the controversial £165m project or not. 

Campaign group Friends of the Earth has pointed to fresh evidence in opposition to the Whitehaven coal mine, while Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie has written to Michael Gove imploring him to approve the scheme so that the UK can sever ties with Russia’s coal industry. 

The project would see a mine for coking coal, largely for use in the steel industry, created on a 689-acre site near Whitehaven. 

The proposal would allow for mineral extraction over 50 years. Around 2.7m tonnes of metallurgical coal would be extracted every year. 

Friends of the Earth has been given fresh hope that the appeal will be thrown out, following a ruling by the Court of Appeal on a different project, an oil extraction plant in Surrey. 

The court said that end-use emissions – caused when extracted coal is used – should be considered as a factor in the determination of planning applications for facilities that produce fossil fuels. 

During the Cumbria coal mine inquiry, applicant West Cumbria Mining had argued that end-use emissions should not be taken into account. 

Friends of the Earth now argues that stance has been undermined by the Court of Appeal ruling. 

On the other side of the debate, Mayor Starkie asked the government to approve the coal mine “as a matter of urgency”, so that the UK could reduce its reliance on Russia, which he said is the largest net exporter of coal to Europe. 

“The need for this mine and the demand for the coking coal was already evident and has increased dramatically with the events in Russia and Ukraine and it now needs decisive action from the government to press ahead.  

“The war in Ukraine will increase the financial burden on UK families and the already emerging cost of living crisis. Opening the mine will, in West Cumbria, alleviate some of that pressure through the creation of new well-paid jobs that will, in the long term, support the government’s much-vaunted levelling up agenda.” 

Cumbria County Council first approved the Woodhouse Colliery proposal from West Cumbria Mining unanimously in March 2019. 

The decision to approve the plans angered conservationists and environmental groups but the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick initially refused to intervene. 

Revised plans were then lodged in 2020 following new evidence into the climate impacts of the scheme. Once again, Cumbria gave the project the go-ahead and once again Jenrick refused to get involved. 

However, pressure mounted both locally and nationally, forcing the Secretary of State to call in the plan. 

A decision on the scheme was due in January but has yet to be handed down. 

Your Comments

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There is simply no excuse for this whatsoever!
The steel industry’s lack of vision and willingness to find a cleaner way to produce the temperatures that they need for smelting, is the only reason that they can demonstrate a continued need for coal.
The fact that some people are now using the Ukrainian crisis as an excuse demonstrates their lack of ethics, every which way.

By Anon

Batteries require pure carbon to be effective. Coking coal of this quality can provide this, and help achieve a world leading battery industry in the UK.

By Arthur S

It doesn’t appear to be common knowledge that coal is used to improve battery efficiency … or is it not?

By Anon

PNW, what is the point of having a comments policy, if you simply choose which comments to publish or not, even when they fully comply with the comments policy?

By Dismayed

Given the current situation in the world, lofty talk of ethics in this sense is a luxury. UK energy and industry now needs to be prioritised with any ordinarily problematic environmental considerations parked.

By Jeff

This mine cannot go ahead; The UK receives coking coal from other places not just Russia. Aberpergwm Mine in Wales wants to sell its coal for non combustible purposes, i.e. Batteries, filters etc and can only sell it coal to steel makers for a limited time I believe. Supporters of the Coal mine don’t bleat about the imports of iron ore or steel, also imported in large quantities to the UK. We are after all operating in a global economy with well established trading agreements
As for Our Mayor, Mr Starkie, insults the intelligence of us ere West Cumbrians. If given the go ahead production is at least two years away and there will be no jobs down a mine for locals. The mining will be semi-automatic the expertise is outside of the county/country. Also the vast majority of the mined coal will be exported to buyers not limited by the amount of sulphur the coal contains, unlike our European neighbours who operate under stricter conditions.
Mr Gove should kick the project into touch

By Marra frae Whiteheaven

The coal from this mine was required prior to Russias barbaric attack on Ukraine and is now much more urgently required.
Micheal Gove- stop dithering and get on and approve it for heavens sake.

By MH

Australia has no plans to phase out coal yet like a couple of other countries. and I think it should go ahead this country can support itself we have the resources. it’s typical that we shut our own mines then buy coal from abroad.absolutely pathetic.

By Anonymous

There is a huge demand for coal in uk, all this climate nonsense first came from the e.u.which we are not now part of yet Germany has extended their coal power station usage by another 10 years due to the energy crisis, until there is something more economical in place we should open this mine plus many others to reduce our reliance on other countries. A future with coal is safer than a future with nuclear.

By nigel

We Need this mine for our home steel industry. Much better than importing the special coal. No need to support Russia. Support our local jobs and economy

By Anonymous

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