Mining giant’s plans under public scrutiny after four year fight by tiny Cumbria charity

After a four year fight by a tiny Cumbrian charity, and unprecedented national and global concern; a four week inquiry [1] starting on Tuesday 7 September sees a mining giant [2] face public scrutiny of its plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) will lead [3] on a challenge to claims made by the globally connected West Cumbria Mining Company (WCM).

A national, and international, network of academics has supported SLACC’s struggle for a major and public investigation into the WCM’s proposal after the 6 th UK Carbon Budget (4) was published in December 2020.

John Ashton, CBE, independent speaker, writer and former UK climate envoy (5) has praised the Kendal based charity, SLACC, for “doing an amazing job in holding WCM to account and forcing a reluctant government to hold a public inquiry”.

SLACC chair of trustees Carole Wood says:

“The public inquiry is the next stage of a long battle to highlight the damage to the climate and environment from this proposal. As a small charity we are very grateful for the global support we have received, the contributions of specialist experts, and the backing of many people who have contributed to our crowd funding”.

Maggie Mason, leading the work for SLACC says:

“Our expert witnesses show that the coal from this mine is not the type that the UK and EU steel industry needs, so it would not replace current imports. And, in any case, the European Steel industry is moving away from using coal because it has to meet stringent new targets to tackle climate change.” [6]

SLACC has worked alongside a number of sustainability groups in Cumbria, as well as national charities that include Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, World Wide Fund for Nature and countryside charity CPRE. SLACC has also attracted over £50,000 of crowd funding this year to support its legal expenses.

Notes to editors

The public inquiry was called by Robert Jenrick (SoS MHCLG) after legal moves by South Lakeland Against Climate Change (SLACC). SLACC galvanised a network of local, national and international climate change experts and sustainability activists with a common interest in stopping global warming.

SLACC‘s expert witnesses will argue that the coal is not needed, that fossil fuels need to stay in the ground and, if released, would worsen the global climate emergency. SLACC will also challenge West Cumbria Mining (WCM) claims around benefits justifying the mine’s global and local impacts.

Friends of the Earth are in full support of SLACC’s position, but will also focus on the serious harms to the landscape and the operational emissions of the mine. Cumbria MPS have an opportunity to speak in the afternoon of Tuesday 7th September. Other interested parties have a chance to speak on Wednesday 8 September.

The inquiry can be watched on the Planning Inspectorate’s YouTube channel

Foot notes

[1] WCM’s proposal for a coal mine at Woodhouse Colliery is the subject of a public inquiry carried out by the planning inspectorate. The inquiry will run from Tuesday, September 7 and is anticipated to last for 16 days.

[2] West Cumbria Mining Company’s principal shareholder and backer of the new mine is the Singapore-based EMR Capital Investment. SLACC believe the buyer of the coal from the mine is Javelin Global Commodities who purchase, supply, trade, and market bulk and energy commodities for customers worldwide.

[3] SLACC’s lawyers pressed the Government to call the Public Inquiry and has Rule 6 status. This means SLACC has a key and leading role in preparing and presenting evidence, and interrogating evidence put forward by WCM. Friends of the Earth (FOE) is also a Rule 6 Party.

[4] The UK enshrines new target in law to slash emissions by 78% by 2035. The UK’s sixth Carbon Budget will incorporate the UK’s share of international aviation and shipping emissions for the first time, to bring the UK more than three-quarters of the way to net zero by 2050.

[5] John Ashton CBE and Trudy Harrison MP debate the coal mine proposal in an article in the Whitehaven Times 2nd September 2021.

[6] In March 2021 UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged all governments, private companies and local authorities to “end the deadly addiction to coal” by cancelling all global coal projects in the pipeline. He called the phasing out of coal from the electricity sector “the single most important step to get in line with the 1.5-degree goal of the Paris Agreement.” He also called for an end to the international financing of coal plants and for a shift in investment to renewable energy projects.