“Intense Opposition” to Coal Mine from Leading Environmentalist.

To: ‘developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk’ <developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk>
Subject: Objection to Planning Application Ref No. 4/17/9007

 

Objection to Planning Application Reference No 4/17/9007

 

A RESPONSE FROM JONATHON PORRITT (private individual)

 

TO WHOM IT MAY APPLY

 

I’m writing to express my intense opposition to the proposal from West Cumbria Mining regarding a new coking coal mine at Whitehaven. I believe there are many reasons to oppose this new development, but I shall focus on just four.

 

  1. NEW HYDROCARBONS

 

WCM has indicated that, at full annual production, the mine will extract:

 

2.43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal;

350,000 tonnes of ‘middlings’ coal;

150,000 tonnes of rock overburden.

 

As is now widely accepted, on account of accelerating climate change, the world needs no new hydrocarbons, and certainly no new coal. This climate change imperative is powerfully articulated internationally (through the Paris Agreement), through many national policy commitments (including the UK’s, which is committed to phasing out use of all coal by 2025), and local (including Cumbria County Council’s own policy statements in that regard).

 

WCM has argued that the metallurgical coal (which will be exported for use primarily for use in the steel industry internationally) should somehow be exempted from this gathering campaign to stop all new developments in coal and other hydrocarbons. That is illogical, not least because the 350,000 tonnes of middlings coal will be used in power stations (not in steel production), as may an unknown percentage of the 2.43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal if it fails to compete in today’s shrinking, highly volatile coking coal market.

 

  1. LIFE CYCLE ANALYSIS / CARBON FOOTPRINT

 

As of today, WCM has failed to make available any detailed LCA (or ‘carbon footprint’) of prospective emissions arising from its mining activities over the next 50 years. As climate scientists have endlessly pointed out, when it comes to emissions, a tonne of CO2 is a tonne of CO2, whatever its origins.

 

As one of the principal environmental and economic externalities that would be generated by the mine, this is wholly unacceptable, leaving planning professionals, elected Members and the general public in the dark when it comes to weighing up this critical variable.

 

  1. RISKS FROM SEISMIC ACTIVITY

 

Over and above the kind of risks associated with mining operations of this kind (such as accidents and explosions, especially in geological areas prone to high levels of methane concentrations), it seems clear to me, looking at WCM’s Environmental Statement, that insufficient attention has been given to the possible risks associated with potential seismic activity.

 

I’m no expert in this area, but the fact that there are a number of well-documented examples from around the world of new seismic activity arising from coking coal operations, this is surely a matter of considerable material interest to planners. Given the very short distance (c.8k) between the proposed mine and Sellafield, this would seem to indicate, in the very least, that all local stakeholders should be made fully aware of the communications currently under way between WCM and the Office of Nuclear Regulation, as it relates to this critical issue.

 

  1. DIVERSIFICATION

 

With apparent irony, WCM has been keen to argue that this proposed development should be supported, amongst other reasons, on the grounds that it will support Cumbria County Council’s stated policy objective of helping to diversify the local economy away from its disproportionate dependence on the nuclear industry.

This is of course ridiculous! Fires and frying-pans come immediately to mind.

 

Jonathon Porritt

10th July 2017

 

 

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