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UK coal mine decision hangs in the balance

Government must reconcile Cumbrian Metallurgical Coal project's carbon footprint with economic benefits

|Oct 6|magazine5 min read

A decision on the UK's first deep coal mine in 30 years hangs in the balance as the government tries to reconcile environmental considerations with economic benefits.

On the day the UK Government will announce renewed commitment to wind power (see Renewable Energy), the Cumbrian Metallurgical Coal project looks at odds with the nation's commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050. Opponents say it would produce 8 milllion tonnes of carbon annually, though supporters point to the project's capability to provide 500 new jobs.

Cumbria County Council has reportedly "resolved to grant planning approval to West Cumbria Mining to develop the Cumbrian Metallurgical Coal Project" - the third time it has sought to rubber stamp the £165m Woodhouse Colliery scheme, which will contain a new underground mine located on a brownfield site near Whitehaven.

Metallurgical coal has been listed as one of 27 critical raw ingredients by the European Union. Once construction of the mine is completed and Woodhouse Colliery moves into the operational phase, the company says it plans to extract and process around 2.7 million tonnes of metallurgical coal per year. It is also focusing on supplying the UK and European steel-making plants, which currently imports around 60 million tonnes per annum from USA, Canada, Russia and Australia.

“Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment, at a critical time given the impacts of Covid-19 upon employment and economics both locally and nationally," said Mark Kirkbride, CEO of West Cumbria Mining. 

“I am proud to be part of a scheme which will have such a positive impact on the local community as well as the long-term financial benefits the mine will bring to Cumbria and the UK."

The process of developing the mine includes careful thought and consideration towards the design of the surface infrastructure, to minimise the potential impact from noise, dust, and light.

An extensive programme of environmental and ecological surveys has been completed, alongside a programme of exploration, both onshore and offshore, which has proven the presence of high-quality coal for use in the steel industry.

“We remain confident that the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, The Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, will also be able to quickly conclude, as he did so previously, that nothing has changed such that the holding direction can be removed and the final planning permit be issued,” added Kirkbride.

Cumbria County Council
Mining Global magazine