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Council approves Cumbrian underground mine

Words: Laura Edgar
Coal mine / iStock-461253789

Cumbria County Council’s regulation committee has granted planning permission for a new underground mine to be located on a brownfield site south-west of Whitehaven. 

West Cumbria Mining’s Cumbria Metallurgical Coal Project will be known as Woodhouse Colliery. The £165 million scheme could create about 500 jobs.

The firm has been working on the plans for the mine since 2014. It will supply metallurgical coal, which is listed by the EU as one of 27 raw materials critical to the steel industry. 

Other proposals alongside the underground mine include associated development comprising the refurbishment of two existing drifts leading to two new underground drifts, coal storage and processing buildings.

These also include: an access road; ventilation, power and water infrastructure; security fencing; lighting and a new coal loading facility and railway sidings linked to the Cumbrian Coast Railway Line.

West Cumbria Mining said its work has involved “careful thought and consideration” of surface infrastructure design to minimise the potential nuisance from noise, dust and light. An “extensive” programme of environmental and ecological surveys has also been completed, as has onshore and offshore exploration to prove there is “high-quality” coal present.

Once operational, the company plans to extract and process 2.7 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year for UK and European steel-making plants. 

This is the third time the council has considered the application. Campaign groups brought a judicial review against the mine, which has seen the application amended.

This approval is subject to several planning conditions, including a legally binding greenhouse gas assessment commitment, which is as part of the section 106 agreement. The production end date must be no later than 2049. 

Mark Kirkbride, CEO of West Cumbria Mining, said the approval “marks another very important milestone in our journey to develop a world-class mine in Cumbria and is the culmination of six years of dedication 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 at a critical time given the impacts of Covid-19 upon employment and economics both locally and nationally.”

The project is subject to a holding direction while communities secretary Robert Jenrick considers whether or not to call in the project.

West Cumbria Mining anticipates that work will start on site early next year with initial coal production beginning around 18 months from the start of construction. 

Read more:

Cumbrian coal mine plan goes ahead as ministers launch global warming review

Image credit | iStock