CGI showing what the proposed Woodhouse Colliery from West Cumbria Mining will look like. Credit: via West Cumbria Mining

Govt approves £165m Cumbria coal mine

The new colliery would have a “neutral effect” on climate change, said secretary of state Michael Gove in his decision to approve West Cumbria Mining’s planning application.

In approving the application, Gove upheld the decision made by Cumbria County Council, which had voted to approve the proposal in 2020 and, unanimously, in 2019.

West Cumbria Mining will now work towards turning 689 acres near Whitehaven into a colliery capable of extracting 2.7m tonnes of metallurgical coal each year. To accomplish this, the company must use the pipe-jacking technique – one of the stipulations listed in Gove’s decision.

The resulting coking coal will be used to produce steel, which played a factor in the secretary of state’s decision.

In Gove’s decision letter, he noted that the economic benefits and having an indigenous supply for the UK steel industry were all considerable factors in the application’s favour. West Cumbria Mining estimates the project will create 1,127 indirect and induced jobs nationally.

West Cumbria Mining aims extract the minerals from the site for 50 years.

It has been a long and drawn-out process for the coal mine, which will be built on the site of the former Marchon chemical plant in Woodhouse.

Plans for the coal mine were first submitted by West Cumbria Mining in the summer of 2017.

Two years later, Cumbria County Council voted unanimously to approve the £165m project. The then-secretary of state, Robert Jenrick, chose not to call in the project despite pleas from environmental groups.

A year later, new evidence against the coal mine was submitted by local campaign group Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole. This led West Cumbria Mining to file a revised application. Cumbria County Council chose to approve this application, too. In January 2021, Jenrick once again opted to not call the application in.

Then the UK’s climate change targets were announced. In February 2021, Cumbria County Council said it would reconsider its decision to approve. In March, Jenrick also changed his mind and called the application in.

The inquiry into the coal mine’s planning application began in September that same year. Originally, a result was expected at the beginning of 2022. Then expectations shifted to the summer, then November – with the result only being announced now, around 15 months after the inquiry began.

Copeland Mayor Mike Starkie, whose remit includes the coal mine site, has been a vocal supporter of the mine. Starkie has argued that a coal mine will create well-paid jobs and support the government’s levelling up mission.

Friends of the Earth, an international group that has spearheaded a movement in opposition to the coal mine, said Gove’s decision was a costly and harmful mistake.

“This is an appalling decision,” said Friends of the Earth campaigner, Tony Bosworth.

“Approving this mine is a misguided and deeply damaging mistake that flies in the face of all the evidence. The mine isn’t needed, will add to global climate emissions, and won’t replace Russian coal.”

Dr Ruth Balogh, a coordinator of West Cumbria Friends of the Earth, agreed. “West Cumbria needs sustainable green jobs for the future – not a dirty coal mine,” she said.

West Cumbria Mining’s application reference number is 4/17/9007 with Cumbria County Council. Its call-in reference number is APP/H0900/V/21/3271069 with the Planning Inspectorate.

Your Comments

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These jobs won’t be long term when there is a shift to renewables.

By Anonymous

It’s sad to see this, we should be much further down the green path. But, if we are going to burn coal, we may as well burn our own. No reliance on international politics and also keeps some money in our frail economy.

I hope they are training all recruits in coal and also how they will transition so they’re not left in the lurch when we finally get off the coal addiction.

By Anonymous

Excellent news. We are in danger of allowing this Net Zero guff to destroy much of our manufacturing industry. We’re importing American shale gas – extracted to much lower environmental standards than we impose in the UK – whilst stopping the extraction of vast quantities of our own low cost gas beneath the Mersey. Utter madness.

By Sceptical

@11:34 am By Anonymous

Good points.


A victory for common sense and rural needs. If we import some coal already because it is genuinely needed, then why not source it locally? Some coal with lots more renewables can live side-by-side.

By Anonymous

How would it have a “neutral effect” on climate change? Not a rhetorical question, would genuinely like to know


85% of the planned production will be exported.

By Anonymous

The blinkered non-progressive view of so many leaders in the manufacturing and construction industry is what stifles any change and why this coal mine is now needed.
If the steel industry had the appetite to progress, they would develop greener solutions to their production.
It is known that Sweden produces steel, including all that is required by Volvo/Polestar and heavier production, using green-hydrogen powered smelting and production process, so why can’t such an amazing nation such as ours do this?

By Anon

Fab news, local jobs and income

By Stuart wood

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