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Council to rethink approval for Cumbrian coal mine

Words: Laura Edgar
Coal mining / Shutterstock: 512270401

Cumbria County Council will reconsider its approval of a new underground mine to be located on a brownfield site south-west of Whitehaven.

West Cumbria Mining’s Cumbria Metallurgical Coal Project, known as Woodhouse Colliery, 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.  

The county council’s regulation committee granted planning permission for the scheme in October 2020. Communities secretary Robert Jenrick opted not to ‘call in’ the decision for his consideration.

After this, climate scientist James Hanson wrote to Prime Minister Boris Johnson to explain that establishing the mine would show “contemptuous disregard for the future of young people”.

Yesterday (9 February) the county council announced that in light of new information published by the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), it had decided to revisit its decision to approve the mine.

In December 2020, the committee published its Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037), in which it states that polluting emissions in the UK must fall by 78 per cent by 2035, compared with 1990 levels. This was the UK’s 2050 goal 18 months ago. It should sit alongside an ambition to reduce emissions by at least 68 per cent relative to 1990 by 2030. The targets should cover all greenhouse gas emissions, including those from international aviation and shipping, says the report.

The Sixth Carbon Budget can be met through four key steps:

  • Take-up of low-carbon solutions.
  • Expansion of low-carbon energy supplies.
  • Reducing demand for carbon-intensive activities.
  • Land and greenhouse gas removals.

Greenpeace UK’s chief scientist Doug Parr said: “If Cumbria County Council decides it should change its mind, it’s a U-turn that would be very welcome. It’s absolutely right that the county should reconsider plans for a new coal mine in light of evidence demonstrating how damaging this would be for our climate, and for the UK’s international reputation.

“Any such shift does not let the government off the hook, though. Ministers should be ashamed of their failure to step in on an issue of obvious international significance. Even if the coal mine is canned by Cumbria, this is still a global embarrassment for the UK in a year when we were supposed to be setting an example on climate action for the world to follow.”

Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said: “Cumbria County Council is right to review its decision – allowing this climate-wrecking coal mine to go ahead would completely undermine UK leadership ahead of this year’s vital climate summit.

“Quite simply there is no place for new coal extraction in the middle of a climate emergency. It’s time to leave coal in the ground and focus on fast-tracking a green industrial revolution. This will bring the new jobs and business opportunities that are needed in communities everywhere, including Cumbria.”

The Planner has asked Cumbria County Council for a statement.

Read more:

UK must see a 78% fall in pollution emissions by 2035

Council approves Cumbrian underground mine

Image credit | Shutterstock