Cumbria County Council has backed plans for a £175m metallurgical coal mine on a brownfield site near Whitehaven with work set to get under way by the end of the year.
The plans by West Cumbria Mining cover mineral extraction over 50 years over a 689-acre site running to and beyond the St Bees coast, along with associated development such as the refurbishment of two existing drifts leading to two new underground drifts; coal storage and processing buildings; office and change building, an access road, ventilation, power and water infrastructure and landscaping.
There is also provision for a coal loading facility and railway sidings linked to the Cumbrian Coast railway line with adjoining office and welfare facilities, along with the extension of railway underpass and permanent access on land off Mirehouse Road, Pow Beck Valley. The intention is for coal to be moved entirely by rail to UK steel making and port destinations.
The project sits within the West Cumbrian coalfield and is next to the former Haig Colliery, which was a working mine between 1914 and 1986.
Once construction of the mine is completed and Woodhouse Colliery moves into the operational phase, the company plans to extract and process around 2.5 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year to supply into UK and European steel-making coal plants, which currently import around 45 million tonnes per annum from USA, Canada, Russia and Australia.
Following yesterday’s planning approval, work is expected to start on the scheme before the end of the year, with coal production starting around two years later. WCM will continue to work with the county council to progress through pre-construction and construction stages.
Responding to environmental concerns raised by local groups, WCM said that the local environment will benefit from the remediation of a significant portion of the site, with over 18 acres of wildlife habitats to be created. In addition, it said that the ongoing risk of flooding in Sandwith village will be eliminated and any existing contaminant escape risks from the southern part of the site will be removed due to the proposed remediation strategy.
Mark Kirkbride, chief executive of West Cumbria Mining said: “Today marks a very important milestone in our journey to develop a world class mine in Cumbria and is the culmination of five years of hard work and determination by the WCM team to realise our vision”.
“Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment. I am proud to be part of something which will have such a positive impact on the local community and economy as well as the long-term financial benefits the mine will bring to the UK”.
“We now look forward to moving towards the construction of Woodhouse Colliery and harnessing the extensive mining history and knowledge in West Cumbria to operate a state-of-the-art mine, including the highest levels of health and safety and technology to ultimately realise our vision of becoming a leading European producer of high-quality metallurgical coal for steel making.”