Earthquake risks for proposed coal mine in Cumbria, all too close to Sellafield nuclear site

nuclear-news

Geotechnical experts have urged caution over claims from a campaign group
that the proposed Cumbrian coal mine could cause earthquakes. Before the
start of the public inquiry into the mine – which began yesterday –
campaign group Radiation Free Lakeland said that the development poses
induced earthquake and subsidence risk. The group believes that “mining
induced seismicity is likely to occur” at the coal mine, and also
emphasised that nuclear waste site Sellafield is 8km away.

“The majority
of anthropogenic-related earthquakes were caused by coal mining and the
decline in their numbers from the 1980s to the 2000s was concurrent with a
decline in UK coal production,” Radiation Free Lakeland said. “The coal
mine will induce earthquakes in the vicinity of the world’s riskiest
nuclear site – that is a given – let’s hope and pray that the massive
silence from NGOs over the nuclear elephant in the room does…

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Letter to Guardian on Renewed Push for Nuclear off the Back of Rising Gas Prices

RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

The following letter has been sent to the Guardian – unpublished.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/oct/04/surging-gas-prices-and-fuel-bills-focus-tory-minds-on-the-nuclear-option

Dear Editor,

The article “Surging gas prices and fuel bills focus Tory minds on the nuclear option” (Rob Davies 4th Oct 2021)  fails to mention:   1. Sellafield is a big user of gas to the tune of tens of £Millions a year (and they get it cheap). A massive new gas plant is being built there right now to cool the heels of the nuclear industry.  2. There is no “away” for  nuclear waste apart from the scientifically premature and dangerous plan to bury it deep (and not so deep) underground. 3.  The CEO of the controversial coal mine in Cumbria is “invaluable” to the UK Government’s plan for intemediate and high level wastes in his role as key member of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.  In the frame for a deep nuclear dump…

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Norwegian TV Highlights Coal Mine’s Close Proximity to Sellafield

RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

Broadcast yesterday https://tv.nrk.no/se?v=NNFA03100321&t=1111s

Many thanks to Norway for highlighting the elephant (many headed hydra in the room) which is the Coal Mine’s Proximity to Sellafield. There is a shot in the video taken on the fells above the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site which shows Sellafield’s very close proximity to St Bees head. St Bees Head is from where the coal mine would extend out under the Irish Sea towards Sellafield (in the area adjacent to the much propagandised subsea deep nuclear dump aka GDF)

Broadcast yesterday on national Norwegian TV:

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Allowed Earth Shocks from Coal Mine Five Miles From Sellafield Would Be As Great as That from Continous Blasting….Unless….

RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

In amongst the vast acres of NGO and press focus on climate/steel/jobs we managed to get the Inspector’s attention on seismicity near Sellafield. No mean feat considering the Secretary of State has not asked to be informed on seismic impacts or subsidence just five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site, Sellafield and the low level nuclear waste dump at Drigg. No guesses as to why Government does not want to draw attention to induced earthquakes near Sellafield and would much prefer to take the climate flack. There was much talk of existential threat from climate change from the NGOs Friends of the Earth and South Lakeland Action on Climate Change’s summing up at the Planning Inquiry. Quite right – but the existential threat from induced earthquakes near Sellafield would result in a new nuclear sacrifice zone – imagine that – villages and towns in Cumbria literally wiped off…

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Vote NO to the Coal Mine So Close to Sellafield

CLICK ON THE COMMENTS ICON ABOVE TO VOTE NO..If you are on social media there is an opportunity to Vote No to the coal mine – the Whitehaven News has a poll which is so far being populated by pro-mine votes – come on lets show resistance to this diabolic plan which is far more dangerous than the sum of the climate/steel/jobs arguments being promoted.

Q. When is a Coal Mine More Dangerous than the Sum of its Parts??

A. When the Coal Mine Boss is “invaluable” to the UK Government’s Nuclear Dump Plans

Dangerous Climate of Nuclear Denial- Seismic Traffic Light System at Least as Stringent as that for Fracking Must be in Place Should Coal Mine Near Sellafield be Approved by Government.

RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

Dear Paul Haggin,

We would like to draw Cumbria County Council’s attention to Tim Farron MP’s letter (see below) to the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Minister urging a Traffic Light System similar to that for fracking should the Government be minded to approve the coal mine.

Given the high hazard consequences of induced seismicity on the Energy Coast which houses the Nation’s (and much of the world’s) nuclear wastes at Sellafield and Drigg, a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking would be necessary to protect both the public and the planet from radiological damage. Tim Farron MP’s Westmorland and Lonsdale constituency is within the Outline Emergency Planning Zone for Sellafield.

We note that the Committee on Radioactive Waste Managment of which the CEO of West Cumbria Mining is a key member are advising the NDA/RWM on “how near-surface disposal could be complementary to aGDF”The…

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Hell in a Grain of Sand: Millom Poet Norman Nicholson Had it Right.

Earthquake Inducing Coal Mine Five Miles From Sellafield? What Could Go Wrong? Ask Millom Poet Norman Nicholson

RADIATION FREE LAKELAND

This letter was published in the Whitehaven News on September 1st – it features a poem by Millom Poet, Norman Nicholson. A poem which was frequently taught in Cumbrian Schools before the fakery of “clean” “green” nuclear.

David Moore‘s fizzing enthusiasm for new nuclear “Nuclear is key to clean energy for the future” Whithaven News August 25th 2021 leaves a very nasty taste. The so called small modular reactors and fusion ‘research’ are the latest wheeze to try and keep the nuclear shebang going. They have all the same problems of waste, emissions and electricity too expensive to meter. As someone who lives within the 50km Outline Emergency Planning Zone for Sellafield as well as living within the 30km OEPZ for Heysham, the poem “Windscale” by Millom poet Norman Nicholson is especially prescient given that Sellafield and David Moore are also fizzingly in favour of the highly mechanised “state…

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Coal and Nuclear Hand in Hand – A Honeycomb of Lies in West Cumbria

This article was written in early 2017 and sent out to local and national groups and commentators with the aim of raising opposition to the coal mine – that was achieved but the many headed hydra in the room is still being studiously ignored. Our nuclear obsessed government are only too happy about that – the last thing they want is to draw attention to the insanity of mining out earthquake inducing huge voids under the Irish Sea adjacent to Sellafield. What a nightmare.

From early 2017….

Most Gaseous, Dangerous Pit in the Kingdom
These are strange, confusing days. There is all round praise being heaped on the plans to reopen Whitehaven coal mine on Cumbria’s West Coast, the most gaseous, dangerous pit in the Kingdom. In 1815, Sir Humphrey Davy’s invention of the miner’s safety lamp was first tested in Whitehaven Coking Coal Mine because of its reputation for “firedamp” (methane) and fatal explosions. By 1816 the Davey lamp was in full use in collieries around Great Britain. A letter of gratitude was written by Whitehaven Miners to Sir Humphrey Davy in 1816…. many of the miners signing the letter later lost their lives in the mine.
Honeycomb
The West Coast of Cumbria below both ground and sea is a labyrinthine honeycomb of mines. Not only coking coal but iron ore and many other minerals. This vast honeycomb of mines stretches to Sellafield. One of the earliest records of coal mining in West Cumberland dates to 1560, the last pit, the Haig, closed in 1986. There are old mine maps but these are far, far from complete. Understandably so, given the length of time that this area has been extensively mined. Many of the miners are still there in the dangerous honeycomb. Entombed in the same collapsed and sea inundated mine pits that the West Cumbria Mining Company wants to reopen.
 Infamous Copeland By Election
In the recent infamous Copeland by election the candidates without exception declared themselves to be “big fans” of reopening the West Cumbria Coal Mine. They did this in true Alice in Wonderland style, expressing concerns about climate change while praising the plan to reopen the coal mine. For many years UK citizens have been subjected to a constant bombardment of disingenuous propaganda: ‘nuclear power is the answer to climate change and coal is far worse than nuclear for the climate’. The purpose of this propaganda being that we should welcome nuclear with open arms, while shunning coal. George Monbiot has consistently and aggressively set the pace: “Nuclear scare stories are a gift to the truly lethal coal industry.” Monbiot’s constant mantra in the last several years is that those who oppose nuclear power are uninformed, bigoted idiots. Now it appears that the idiots in Cumbria are being groomed to welcome both coal AND nuclear.
Homely Image
A recent article in the Daily Mail paints a homely image of a local mining firm returning to its traditional roots in Cumbria. This image is not quite what it seems. The £14.7m private equity financing for reopening Whitehaven mine has been put up by EMR Capital who say: “We are a specialist resources private equity manager whose team has a proven track record in the three dimensions critical to achieving superior returns:

  1. Successful resources exploration, development, operation and commercialisation
  2. Deep linkages to Asian markets – in particular, with commodity purchasers and end users, resources companies, investors and governments
  3. Private equity investment management”

PR Spin
The PR for reopening the coal mine seems to have worked its charms on the local Allerdale and Copeland Green party for whom the coal mine gets a thumbs up as it ‘will reduce imports of the coking coal necessary to produce wind turbines.’ This argument holds no water as in order to recoup money and make a killing the coal from Whitehaven would be aggressively exported worldwide. The coal and its by-products could end up doing anything from being burnt in coal fired power stations, processed into coking coal, making the vast amounts of steel necessary for a giant geological dump for radioactive wastes. The coal from Whitehaven was first processed into coking coal for the iron industry in 1723. Coke production did not however match local demand and tonnes were brought in from Durham. The Durham coke was superior in having lower phosphorus content, a factor of importance to the local hematite iron industry.
Turning the ground to a liquid mess
There are other ways to achieve the high temperatures necessary for steel production but even if processing coal into coking coal was the only way, the close proximity of Sellafield and the proposed Moorside site should knock this dangerous plan on the head. Extractive activities are known to cause earthquakes. There are two contenders for the strongest earthquake in this region a 5.0 ML earthquake on 11 August 1786 had an epicentre just offshore from Whitehaven and a depth of about 16 km; a 5.1 ML earthquake on 17 March 1843 had an epicentre offshore from Barrow and a depth of about 15 km. This may not be unrelated to the escalating mining activities going on the time. The only area in the UK to have experienced a liquefaction event is the village of Rampside, near Barrow in 1865. “High intensity and liquefaction phenomena are usually associated only with relatively large magnitude earthquakes. An earthquake in 1865 in the North West of England suggests that a sufficiently shallow small event can also produce liquefaction. The effects are well documented in historical sources and include sand fountaining. Modern investigation is confined to documentary evidence owing to the tidal environment of the area where liquefaction occurred. Analysis shows that the felt area of the earthquake was probably only about 200 km2; however, heavy damage occurred in the village of Rampside and the maximum intensity is assessed at 8. Liquefaction is not uncommon at this intensity, but such a high intensity is not usually produced by such small earthquakes. The magnitude was probably in the range 2.5–3.5 ML.” pure and applied geophysics November 1998, Volume 152, Issue 4, pp 733–745
Questions
West Cumbria Mining are inviting the public to ask questions so I asked the following:
“How would the mine be dewatered? What is the full carbon footprint for one year of peak production. Including predicted dewatering, mining and export operations? What agreements have been made with St Bees School, Lowther Estate, regarding the mineral rights? How are the vast network of faults and dips mapped? (this would have a bearing on distance to the sea bed) What is the proximity to the proposed Moorside site and Sellafield?” The reply from Communications Manager Helen Davies was: “At this time I am busy preparing for our next major stakeholder event, which is scheduled to run on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th March. It would be much easier to discuss your questions and provide answers from our team of specialists who will be at the event, rather than attempting to answer them in writing now. The event on the 2nd March is by invitation only – please find attached an invite, we would be delighted if you could come along to meet with us. Caroline Leatherdale, our environmental specialist will be there, together with a wide range of our technical team.”
Does your lump of coal feel lucky?”
Marianne Birkby
Radiation Free Lakeland
some more info…
784px-P916108.jpg
Earthquakes
http://earthwise.bgs.ac.uk/index.php/Geological_hazards,_geology_and_man,_Northern_England
http://earthwise.bgs.ac.uk/index.php?title=File:P916108.jpg&filetimestamp=20160412172238&
http://www.westcumbriamining.com
http://www.westcumbriamining.com/local-news/west-cumbria-mining-outline-new-plans-coking-coal-mine-near-whitehaven/

BEIS Minister Defends Earthquake Inducing Coal Mine in Letter to Radiation Free Lakeland – We Urge Traffic Light System as Stringent as that for Fracking

Dear Tim Farron MP,
URGENT – TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM AS STRINGENT AS THAT FOR FRACKING NEEDED FOR FIRST DEEP COAL MINE IN 30 YEARS – JUST FIVE MILES FROM WORLD’S RISKIEST NUCLEAR WASTE SITE

At over 0.5 Fracking Operations were stopped – Not so with Cumbrian Coal Mine which would be “allowed” to induce earthquakes of 3.0 magnitude.

Thank you for sight of the reply from BEIS.   Once again Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, has refused to answer our questions.  We agree that no one in their right mind – even those focussed on “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility would consider putting a GDF in the vicinity of a coal mine, let alone putting heat generating nuclear waste into a coal mine.  

Why then is the coal mine slap bang in the middle of the Cumbrian Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when this subsea methane rich and faulted area is clearly “not suitable” for a GDF ?  Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine plan is slap bang in the middle of this “search area.”

Once again we ask the questions:

  1. Why is Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine included slap bang in the middle of the Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when as the Minister has confirmed this subsea methane rich and heavily faulted area is clearly “not suitable” ?   
  2. Why has the Coal Authority not stepped in already, Blocked the Licences and prevented an expensive public inquiry for a development that local planners no longer support and is financially insecure?  WCM’s  latest accounts indicate financial insecurity with staff lay offs to “cut costs.”  The coal mine with its high ash and high sulphur coal is no longer/never was financially viable. 
  3. Finally and perhaps most importantly but most ignored,  Sellafield’s infrastructure just five miles away is at serious risk from this coal mine. On the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Silo  for example has unknown leaks from unknown cracks in the concrete containment which is partly beneath ground.  Sellafield have last month asked for help in finding and mitigating the leak of 550 gallons per day of radioactive liquor into groundwater beneath the site from unknown cracks. Fracking was halted because of earthquakes, coal is known to induce earthquakes at a far greater magnitude than fracking.   An induced tiny crack in the concrete at Sellafield  is not comparable to a tiny crack anywhere else.

Yesterday on Womens’ Hour the Minister did not go so far as she has done in the reply to us in endorsing the coal mine.  It is understandable, if unethical, that the Minister would defend the business interests of a key advisor to her department, BEIS.   Mark Kirkbride is Chair of the Sub Group (on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management) tasked with “Delivery” of a Geological Dispsoal and advising BEIS on how this can be achieved.   

What is not understandable is that the the Minister supports the mine at the expense of public safety stating “In the highly unlikely event of the proposed mine collapsing, the assessment determined that any ensuing earth tremors would be limited to very low levels. In addition, any such tremors would not be felt on the Sellafield site, nor disrupt structures, systems, and components important to safety.”   This is simply breathtaking in its nonchalance.

The limit of Peak Particle Velocity that Mark Kirkbride wants the earth movement to be set at for his mine is 6mm/sec, this is as high as the upper limit for blasting in a quarry.  Even then, unlike fracking which would be halted at a much lower level the operations would continue while ‘investigations’ would take place.    The vibrations of huge bolter mining and cutting machinery in multiple coal mining operations (as boasted by Mark Kirkbride) under the Irish Sea will be continuous rather than sporadic as in blasting,

 At the Chaco National Heritage Park in New Mexico the limit is advised at 2mm/sec  PPV for mining in order to protect the structures (https://pubs.usgs.gov/of/1985/0529/report.pdf).   It is accepted that at 1.0mm/sec  PPV the level would cause complaint from the public – Mark Kirkbride wants his “accepted” level to be 6mm/sec of Peak Particle Velocity.  (United Utilities Guidance on human response to construction vibration page 10 of May 2014 UU Statement Cuadrilla Bowland Ltd Temporary Shale Gas Exploration PNR).

Unlike fracking , West Cumbira Mining do not propose stopping operations even if earthquakes of a far greater magnitude than 0.5 ML occur.  This is outrageous given that coal mining is known to induce earthquakes of 3 ML and more.  

Geologist Peter Styles in his 2018 paper said: UK Seismic Traffic Light Thresholds postulate a cessation  and subsequent modification (or even halting) of fracking activities if an earthquake of magnitude 0.5 ML occurs. This size of event corresponds to a movement of only a few millimetres on a short fault segment of a larger fault.  Fracking and Historic Coal Mining: Their relationship and should they coincide?  by  Professor Emeritus Peter Styles.  

Cuadrilla’s Environment Statement Appendix L on Induced Siesmicity states.  “It should be noted that the TLS (Traffic Light System) required for hydraulic fracturing in the UK is significantly more stringent than the maximum ‘allowed’ induced seismic event for other hydrocarbon industries in the UK such as coal mining where magnitude >3.0ML events have been observed.”   Quite!

Will BEIS step up as their predeccesor DECC did and impose a seismic Traffic Light System on West Cumbria Mining?   To not do so puts the whole of Europe at risk from this coal mine just five miles from Sellafield.  The Lake District Boundary Fault starts at Whitehaven, to run under Sellafield and down to the Duddon Estuary.  Should the Secretary of State be minded to approve this mine a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking MUST be put in place.   

Finally the Minster for BEIS states that: “The process to identify a site for a GDF is based on positive support from a willing community together with a suitable site. No sites have yet been selected”

Evidence suggests otherwise.   In a document published in August by HM Treasury “Analysis of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline 2021” (an advance warning of all the planned big-money spends for the UK Gov’) (LINK below) in part 7 (page 28) [a section called: Methodology Used for Regional Analysis of Investment to 2024/25] it is explained that:

“Projects in the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline are allocated to individual regions (as defined by the ONS), based on the location of the built asset when the asset is located within one region.”

Then at part 7.6 (also Page 28) – this is written:

“…investment in the Geological Waste Disposal Facility is allocated to the North West”

This document evidences that The Government and The Treasury have set-aside funds for a GDF in “the Northwest” for the years 2024 and 2025. 

This contradicts the position that no site has yet been chosen.  

Analysis of the National Infrastructure and Construction Pipeline 2021 (publishing.service.gov.uk) 

It is Urgent that a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking is put in place for this highly mechanised first deep coal mine in 30 years five miles from Sellafield

Yours sincerely
Marianne Birkby
on Behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland

CC Paul Haggin Cumbria County Council
Planning Inspector Stephen Normington

PREVIOUS CORRESPONDENCE

16th July 2021

Dear Tim,

Thank you for sight of the reply from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change. 

It was good to hear the Minister say that “I would like to reassure your constituents that Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), the developer of the GDF, has absolutely no plans to consider coal mines for the geological disposal of radioactive waste, because they are simply not suitable. ” We agree that no one in their right mind – even those focussed on “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility would consider putting a GDF in the vicinity of a coal mine, let alone putting heat generating nuclear waste into a coal mine.   This said we have to ask: Why is the coal mine slap bang in the middle of the Cumbria Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when this subsea methane rich and faulted area is clearly “not suitable” for a GDF ?

CRONYISM – THE MOST BLATANT EXAMPLE EVER IN UK HISTORY?

This question of the relationship between the GDF and the Coal Mine has added piquancy given that the said Coal Mine is the business interest of Mark Kirkbride who is advising the Minister on the GDF having been appointed to a number of key positions on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.   The Minister does not address the thorny issue of coal/nuclear/private/public cronyism in her reply to you.

To reiterate: In 2011 the same year Charles Hendry MP was prematurely congratulating Cumbria Council on their ‘steps towards geological disposal of hot nuclear wastes’, he was also cutting the ribbon on one Mark Kirkbride’s venture as CEO at Itmsoil a Sussex based International company specialising in instrumentation measuring stress in large scale construction projects.  Mark Kirkbride’s Itmsoil company went into Administration in 2014 in order to give ”protection from creditors.”    Charles Hendry was the predecessor of  Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, he was doing her job with the same responsibility for both the GDF and the Coal Authority.   

FINANCIALLY VIABLE ?

The Minister states that the Coal Authority has to be satisfied that the coal mine must prove its financial viability before  licences can be issued.  We have previously made the point that the coking coal from this mine would not be the premium quality product first vaunted by WCM but would be of a high ash and high sulphur content and most likely unsaleable (as coking coal).

The latest accounts from West Cumbria Mining clearly state that the company is financially unviable.   Staff have been laid off, the office in Haywards Heath has closed, the secretive financial backer is prepared to stand the cost until the end of the planning process and a third party funder says they are prepared to fund development, whatever that development is as we have not been given sight of it. 

In fact No one has had sight of the latest licence applications from WCM as the Coal Authority is deferring to Mark Kirkbride’s wish not to make his development plans public.  Given the relationship between WCM, CoRWM and with BEIS who have ultimate responsibility for both the Coal Authority and CoRWM this is an example of epic cronyism   WCM have made much of employment of the local workforce but the Directors have a past record of using administration tactics to avoid paying creditors and then rise phoenix like into another incarnation.  The amount of money spent by WCM on political lobbying (New Century Media/Tony Lodge – cosy visits by Mark Kirkbride with MP Trudy Harrison to BEIS)  is in the £millions. It is clear that PR and political and financial chicanery is more important than keeping the WCM office staff on.  

The paperwork has already been put into place by WCM to ensure that when it all goes pear shaped (or to plan?)  WCM’s land and assets go to EMR Capital who are acting on behalf of other parties.

Further Questions include:

  1. Why is Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine included slap bang in the middle of the Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when as the Minister has confirmed this subsea methane rich and heavily faulted area is clearly “not suitable” ?   
  2. Why has the Coal Authority not stepped in already Blocked the Licences and prevented an expensive public inquiry for a development that local planners no longer support and is financially insecure?  WCM’s  latest accounts indicate financial insecurity with staff lay offs to “cut costs.”  The coal mine with its high ash and high sulphur coal is no longer/never was financially viable. 
  3. Finally and perhaps most importantly but most ignored,  Sellafield’s infrastructure just five miles away is at serious risk from this coal mine (notwithstanding the nonchalance of the Office for Nuclear Regulation). On the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Silo  for example has unknown leaks from unknown cracks in the concrete containment which is partly beneath ground.  Sellafield have last month asked for help in finding and mitigating the leak of 550 gallons per day of radioactive liquor into groundwater beneath the site from unknown cracks. Fracking was halted because of earthquake risk and yet the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have stated that coal mining induced earthquakes are of a magnitude greater than fracking : “Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of smaller magnitude than the UK’s largest natural seismic events and those induced by coal mining”.  Sellafield is on the Lake District Boundary Fault and WCM plans to abstract profligate amounts of ground water from their newly voided mine via the Byerstead Fault – no one knows how these faults relate to each other.   Why aren’t lessons being learnt in the Sellafield area from the fracking experience in the Blackpool area when coal mine induced seismicity is of a magnitude greater than that of fracking?

Many thanks for persisting with our questions to Ministers.

With best wishes,

Marianne

Radiation Free Lakeland

Campaigns include Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and Lakes Against Nuclear Dump

Additional Notes
WCM on the Rocks – or Ready for Next Venture?https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2021/07/11/west-cumbria-mining-on-the-rocks-or-divesting-in-readiness-for-next-venture-a-big-hole-costing-1-7-billion/

Sellafield Leaks – Ongoing – https://www.gamechangers.technology/challenge/Leak_prevention_or_minimisation
WCM

06 Jul 2021
View / Download(PDF file, link opens in new window)
06 Jul 2021Group of companies’ accounts made up to 30 June 2020View PDF Group of companies’ accounts made up to 30 June 2020 – link opens in a new window – 32 pages(32 pages)

Letter from the Minister

Dear Tim,

The Rt Hon Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP

Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy
1 Victoria Street
London

SW1H 0ET

T +44 (0) 20 7215 5000 E enquiries@beis.gov.uk W http://www.gov.uk

Our ref: MCSL2021/15192 Your ref: TF126325

6 July 2021

Thank you for your email dated 11 May, to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, on behalf of your constituents, regarding the West Cumbria Mine. I am responding as this matter falls within my Ministerial portfolio.

There is a good deal of information about the Coal Mining licensing process, including the different types of licences and permits, available on the pages of GOV.UK. Including here: http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/surface-and-underground-coal-mining- licences/guidance-notes-for-underground-coal-mining-licences.

The Coal Authority’s duties about licensing are set out in statute – in the 1994 Coal Industry Act – and to operate a coal mine an operator needs relevant rights and permissions including planning permission, a licence from the Coal Authority and to notify the Health and Safety Executive.

In general terms planning permission covers local social, economic and environmental aspects – i.e. is this the right place for this activity? whereas, a coal mining licence considers practicalities – can the mine operate in a way that is effective and financially underpinned to ensure that any land or property impacted can be compensated and the mine eventually closed in a safe and appropriate way. The Health and Safety Executive considers whether the operations can be undertaken safely.

When assessing an application for a coal mining licence, the Coal Authority are required to consider:

  • Whether the applicant can finance coal mining operations and related liabilities
  • The nature of the land or property that may be impacted by subsidence and that damage can be properly compensated by the operator.
  • That the operation will be carried out by properly experienced people In the case of West Cumbria Mining, this is what the Coal Authority will be assessing in consideration of the operator’s application to extend the term of their conditional licences. A conditional licence does not allow coal mining operations to commence (the purpose of a conditional licence is explained in the link above). As you are aware, planning permission for this mine is subject to an inquiry and it would not be appropriate to comment on the outcome of that but as outlined above, the Coal Authority assesses applications to it based on the duties set out in its enabling legislation.

To disclose the financial matters and commercial activity of the mine operator would be a breach of confidence to the clauses within their licence and their commercial interests. The Coal Authority also has a duty under S59 of the Coal Industry Act 1994 to ensure that it maintains confidentiality in respect of the business affairs of any individual or a business. Whilst the Coal Authority may be asked to input on aspects such as the history of the site or the quality of the coal, its processes are distinct and separate to that of planning and therefore any planning enquiry.

Given the Coal Authority’s duties under s59 of the Coal Industry Act, the Coal Authority have advised they would not disclose details of the application without the applicant’s consent.

Your constituents are also concerned that the coal mining licence applications are in some way linked to the process to find a site for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).

I would like to reassure your constituents that Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), the developer of the GDF, has absolutely no plans to consider coal mines for the geological disposal of radioactive waste, because they are simply not suitable.

The process to identify a site for a GDF is based on positive support from a willing community together with a suitable site. No sites have yet been selected. Two Working Groups (the first formal step in the process) have been formed in West Cumbria – in Allerdale and in Copeland – with more expected to be announced in England later this year. It is the Working Groups which will identify the initial search areas for a location for the GDF. The site selection process will stretch over several years and the decision to go ahead at a prospective location will ultimately be subject to a test of public support. It can only proceed if the community wishes it to proceed.

Thank you once again for taking the time to write. I hope you will find this reply helpful. Yours sincerely,

THE RT HON ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN MP

Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change


URGENT: TRAFFIC LIGHT SYSTEM FOR COAL INDUCED EARTHQUAKES

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Dear Friends

Thank you to all who have signed the petition and a really big thanks to those who spoke out at the coal mine planning inquiry about the earthquake/subsidence risks to Sellafield.   Because of all of you the Planning Inquiry will now *touch on*  seismicity and proximity to Sellafield.  (The Planning Inspector stated this at the beginning of today’s proceedings) 

We need to make sure that Cumbria County Council do more than *touch on*  serious public health and safety concerns by requiring the developer West Cumbria Mining to agree to s106 conditions on seismicity at least as stringent as the Fracking Traffic Light System  (s106 are conditions to be placed on the coal mine should the Secretary of State give approval)

Please do write to Cumbria County Council and copy to the Planning Inspectorate asking that a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking is placed on the coal mine as part of the s106 conditions.

It is Cumbria County Council who have the power to insist on this condition on seismicity to safeguard us from earthquakes should this coal mine be given the go ahead.  It is incredible that the issue of tree planting and landscaping is being given far more attention than the almost taboo fact that this coal mine, just five miles from Sellafield, WILL induce earthquakes.

The earthquake likelihood and potential nuclear fallout including resuspension of radioactive silts under the Irish Sea would have gone unrecorded had it not been for those who spoke on nuclear impacts.  

Heartfelt Thank you to  Irene Sanderson from North Cumbria CND, Lindy Powell, John Ashton, Neil Wilson and Samagita Moisha who all raised the nuclear/earthquake issue.  I spoke on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland and followed up with a letter urging Cumbria County Council and the Planning Inquiry to put conditions at least as stringent as those for fracking on the coal mine should the Secretary of State grant permission.

Please do write to Cumbria County Council and copy to the Planning Inspectorate asking that a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking is placed on the coal mine as part of the s106 conditions (conditions placed on developments).

Email Cumbria County Council:  Paul.Haggin@cumbria.gov.uk

copy to the Planning Inspectorate: ELZABETH.HUMPHREY@planninginspectorate.gov.uk

Our letter can be seen here – your letter doesn’t need to be long – here is a suggestion for inspiration :  Please ensure a Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for fracking is placed on the coal mine which is just five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site and directly under decades of radioactive wastes now on the sea-bed.

Remember to include your name and address. 

The coal mine operators do not propose stopping operations even if earthquakes of a far greater magnitude than 0.5 ML occur.  This is outrageous given that coal mining is known to induce earthquakes of 3 ML and more.  

Geologist Peter Styles in his 2018 paper said: UK Seismic Traffic Light Thresholds postulate a cessation  and subsequent modification (or even halting) of fracking activities if an earthquake of magnitude 0.5 ML occurs. This size of event corresponds to a movement of only a few millimetres on a short fault segment of a larger fault.  Fracking and Historic Coal Mining: Their relationship and should they coincide?  by  Professor Emeritus Peter Styles

Finally, Thank you for signing the petition Coal Produces More Earthquakes than Fracking, So Lets Talk About Sellafield and the Mine, we will keep the petition open to raise awareness,  you can help spread the word by sharing.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/coal-produces-more-earthquakes-than-fracking-so-lets-talk-about-sellafield-and-the-mine

Many Thanks!

Marianne Birkby