Coal 1
Coal 1

The case against a new Coal Mine

West Cumbria Mining want to open a new deep mine at Whitehaven West Cumbria. Part of the mine would run under the Irish Sea, but that section will need a separate consent from the Marine Management Organisation. Legal action from SLACC and public pressure pursuaded Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government to “call in” the planning application, and hold a Public Inquiry.

Mr Stephen Normington was appointed as Planning Inspector, and after hearing all the evidence, he will write a report and send it to Michael Gove, who will make a decision whether to refuse or approve the application.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change and Friends of the Earth have objected to the application for many years, on the grounds that the mine would increase Carbon Emissions and be contrary to planning policy. We are both “Rule 6 Parties” at the Inquiry, and are each represented by a Barrister. 

After our four year fight and an unprecedented level of national and global concern, a four week inquiry began on Tuesday 7 September 2021. West Cumbria Mining Company will now face public scrutiny of its plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The inquiry began on the 7 September 2021 and it can be watched on the Planning Inspectorate’s YouTube channel

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Six reasons why SLACC opposes the proposed Cumbria coal mine

The Public Inquiry held in September and October 2021 raised a series of arguments against the proposed mine. We can best summarise the arguments against the mine with these six reasons:

1. Emissions

The proposed mine will add 9,000,000 Tonnes of CO2 every year at a time when the world is aiming to reduce and eliminate emissions from coal. This is a huge amount – significant for Cumbria, the UK and the world.

2. Global Leadership

The global political consensus is to reduce and eliminate coal as a fuel source because of the huge amount of CO2 it creates. To do this means not only closing existing mines but not opening new ones. The UK continues as the host country of COP for the next year, during which time it will be challenging China, India and other countries on their plans for using coal. It will lose credibility with other countries in this process if it approves this mine.

3. Low Carbon Steel is the Future

The steel industry understands the problem of using coal, and every major steel producer is investigating and investing in alternative fuel sources such as hydrogen. Buyers of steel are also increasing demanding ‘low carbon steel’ which is pushing progress faster than foreseen even two years ago. The proposed mine will likely be obsolete long before it’s proposed end date of 2049.

4. High Sulphur Content

The proposed Cumbria mine will produce a quality of coal that is not suitable for UK and European steel makers, being too high in suphur. It will therefore not replace imports as advertised. Rather, it will rely upon global export markets and therefore higher delivered costs. It will also reach full production just as steel companies are reducing their reliance upon coal. This will cast a long shadow on the number and the quality of the jobs on offer.

5. Jobs

West Cumbria needs jobs that have a future. A variety of studies have highlighted the exiting potential for jobs tied to renewable energy, energy efficiency and a low carbon Cumbria. Such jobs would be created across a wide range of companies and sectors delivering a resilient working environment. What’s needed is a collective effort from central and local governments, academia, and business to make these happen.

6. Ancient Woodland

The proposed development would lead to destruction of an area of ancient woodland. England is one of the countries that has been most denuded of its ancient woodlands. We should be restoring and regenerating what is left, not cutting more down.

Our final closing statement can be found above, together with the detailed rebuttals that our experts submitted during the Inquiry.


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