Two Months to Stop the Cumbrian Coal Mine!

 “Greenpeace would be opposed to a new coal mine for the same reason we’re opposed to fracking. We already know that there is too much fossil fuel available than we can afford to burn Therefore we should not be seeking out more.” Doug Parr Greenpeace UK

MANY THANKS to everyone who has written to oppose the coal mine.  We now have a period of time to build a campaign against this plan “The earliest Committee the application could be presented to is the 20 September 2017. Representations received after the report has been finalised (usually 10 days before the Committee meeting) will be verbally reported to the Committee on the day of the meeting.”

People and groups can write to Cumbria County Council to ask to speak against the plan and the more who do this the better chance we have of stopping the first coal mine in the UK in 30 years!

Correspondence below with Cumbria County Council from Keep Cumbria Coal in the Hole

Dear Ms Birkby

Acknowledgement of Representation on Planning Application Ref. 4/17/9007

Location:    Pow Beck Valley and area from Marchon Site to St Bees Coast, Cumbria 

Proposal:    Development of an existing surface mine entrance for a new underground metallurgical coal mine and associated surface development including: coal storage and processing buildings; access road; security fencing; lighting; outfall to sea; surface water management system; landscaping; at the former Marchon site (High Road) Whitehaven; interconnecting underground coal conveyor to a new coal loading and railway siding to the Cumbria Coast Railway Line, with adjoining office/welfare facilities; extension of railway under pass; security fencing; lighting; landscaping; construction of a temporary development compound and associated permanent service access off Mirehouse Road, Pow Beck valley south of Whitehaven.

Thank you for your representation with regard to the above planning application. Your views will be carefully considered and a summary of them will be included in my report to the Development Control and Regulation Committee which will determine the application. You will be able to view my report on the County Council’s web pages at the time. The earliest Committee the application could be presented to is the 20 September 2017. Representations received after the report has been finalised (usually 10 days before the Committee meeting) will be verbally reported to the Committee on the day of the meeting.

All representations are made available for inspection, including by the applicant.

There is also opportunity for representations to be made in person to the Committee meeting at the time the application is presented for determination; the meetings are usually held at County Hall in Kendal. Information on how to go about doing this can be found online at:


Kind Regards


Rachel Brophy


Planning Officer | Development Control


From: marianne Birkby
Sent: 02 July 2017 15:24
To: Young, Stewart F
Cc: Harrison, Nicola J; Perigo, Stuart
Subject: KEEP CUMBRIAN COAL IN THE HOLE Planning Reference NO 4/17/9007

 by email and sent by letter


Planning Reference NO 4/17/9007

Dear Councillor Young,

I am writing to you on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland to vehemently oppose the plan for the underground and undersea coking coalmine near Whitehaven.

We agree with Coal Action Network (1) who have written to you saying:

“Given that the UK steel industry imported 4.75 million tonnes of coking coal in 2015, mainly from the USA (44%) and Russia (27%) it seems perverse to be exporting coal to other countries, while importing it for UK steelworks (2). Exporting coal increases greenhouse gas emissions and producing more coal could displace lower quality coking coal to power station usage adding to greenhouse gas emissions and air quality issues. The UK government intends on phasing-out coal by 2025, but the whole world needs to stop burning this most polluting of all fossil fuels now (3).

“The application to mine is too close to the Sellafield nuclear site and the proposal for another nuclear power station at Moorside (4). Underground mining can have a significant impact on the surrounding areas, recently a coking coal mine in Russia triggered an earthquake. In addition to being dangerous for mining personnel this could cause a nuclear catastrophe (5).”

We also agree with the former director of Friends of the Earth, Jonathon Porritt who has publicly blasted the plan saying (6):

“As I understand it, the sole justification from a sustainability point of view is that the extracted coal will be coking coal, not thermal coal (for use in power stations), with some preposterous notion that this will apparently produce a lower carbon footprint than coking coal imported from other countries. Yet so far as I can tell, no detailed lifecycle analysis, both direct and indirect, has been done by West Cumbria Mining, so why would anyone swallow that particular pile of coking crap? In cases like this, I often think I must be going mad, and that may well be true. There’s a lot of it around these days. But in this instance, my mind keeps turning to a potential spoof-tweet from the Donald: “I am a big fan of coal and a big fan of nuclear. Putting the two of them together sounds GREAT!”

Greenpeace’s scientific advisor Doug Parr has told Radiation Free Lakeland that:

“Greenpeace would be opposed to a new coal mine for the same reason we’re opposed to fracking. We already know that there is too much fossil fuel available than we can afford to burn Therefore we should not be seeking out more.     Materials science analysis shows significant emissions from the process where coke is used.  Steel is max 2% carbon. That would make any feasible market very small for coking coal if it only got incorporated into the final steel.   It’s true there is a need for a source of carbon in making steel and coke is currently the best source. But that’s different from saying there are no other sources of coke available and that we need new mines.”


The Chief Executive Officer Mark KirkBride insisted when questioned at the June 25th “drop in day” that there will be no induced Seismic activity from the coal mining and that the close proximity of the proposed drifts (8km) to Sellafield is not a problem (but refused to be videoed or recorded saying that).

The CEO also stated that there is no requirement in this planning application for any mention of Seismic activity but also that they have sent in documentation to the Office for Nuclear Regulation “for approval. ” I asked if we could have sight of that documentation to inform our response to CCC but no apparently we cannot have sight of that either (9)

Incredibly the lifecycle carbon footprint is not yet available for public to view and from what the CEO said it is pretty meaningless anyway as it stops short of the coking process, the carbon footprint of which is “the responsibility of the steel producers.”   Not all the coal mined will be for “coking’ (metallurgical). according to the company’s own Environmental Statement

“At full annual production the mine will extract:

  • 2.43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal;
  • 350,000 tonnes of lower grade ‘middlings’ coal; and
  • 150,000 tonnes of rock overburden

Metallurgical and middlings coal will go to the port of Redcar for export to European steel and industrial plants.”

This is planned to continue for 50 years accessing new coal drifts using the old sulphur (anhydrite) mine entrance at St Bees

  • 80% of the coal to be mined is for export.

The CEO says the sparks we can see clearly on their own video of “modern mining methods” will not cause explosion or fire (despite the Whitehaven mining area being notorious for methane)

ON the 25th June we leafleted in Whitehaven. From what West Cumbrian Mining has been saying we should have been pelted out of town with rotten eggs.   It is clear that WCM’s claim that over 97% of people locally are in favour is wildly optimistic, certainly we spoke to a lot of people who are at least dubious about it despite the persuasive “green” credentials plus the incessant promises of jobs and good times ahead.


Diversification away from the stranglehold of the nuclear industry has been used as a reason to support the return to coal mining in West Cumbria. The existence of Sellafield should however make mining in its vicinity forfeit.  There should be no turning back of the clock to deep coal mining with its risk of induced seismic activity now that Sellafield’s already intolerable risks have to be managed. There are other safer, healthier and more stable industries than coal mining. from renewables to sport and tourism which should be embraced in West Cumbria. For example:

Many have said they would have much preferred the jobs offered by the (deliberately?) scuppered plan for the Pow Beck Valley Sports Village. Pow Beck is now earmarked on West Cumbria Mining’s plan to host a new underground coal conveyer belt from the coal drifts off St Bees to the Railway (10). This area is also earmarked as workers housing for the proposed Moorside plan (11). We note (along with others) that one of the Corporate Directors of Copeland Council who was in charge of (scuppering?) this multi million sports village plan is now working for NuGen (12).

In Conclusion we vehemently oppose this plan for the following reasons (there are many more)

  • If planning permission is granted this vast new coal mine “Woodhouse Colliery would be the first new deep coal mine in the UK for more than 30 years.” This would fly in the face of every climate agreement that Cumbria County Council has signed up to.


  • WCM have not yet produced a carbon footprint and will not be including the emissions from the coking process “that is up to the steel industry.”   Much of the coal mined from WCM will be “middlings” coal not suitable for coking (WCM Non Technical EA page 5).


  • It is too near Sellafield, off St Bees, just 8km away from Sellafield (even nearer to Moorside) according to West Cumbria Mining


  • Coking coal mines worldwide have caused induced seismic activity


  • The coking coal market is volatile with China closing plants because of “overcapacity” (14).


  • West Cumbria Mining state there “would be no significant environmental impacts” the opposite is true – the environmental, economic and health impacts of coal are very well documented (13) and these impacts are significant. Returning to coal mining in this area would add to the cumulative toxic burden in an area where “Nearly half of adult residents reported their health as ‘not good” (15).

Yours Sincerely,

Marianne Birkby

On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland’s

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign


  1. Coal Action Network
  2. Digest of UK Energy Statistics (2016) P55. Table 2.1 Commodity balances 2015
  3. Vaughan, A (09/11/16) Britain’s last coal power plants to close by 2025
  4. Reuters (04/04/17) UK’s Moorside nuclear project in turmoil as Toshiba’s French partner backs out
  5. UPDATE 1-Mining in Siberian coal region part-suspended after quake
  6. Jonathon Porritt Blog
  7. Greenpeace Study
  8. Significant Emissions from the coking process

    9. 25th June Open Day

10.Whitehaven Sports Village Step Closer to Being Built

11. Pow Beck

12. Fergus McMorrow

13. More Coal = More Poverty – Oxfam Report


15. China Coal – Overcapacity


note: Resuspension of radioactive wastes from seabed landslides caused by coal mining collapse



  1. Asy them how they are going to vent the gas using the pillar method.
    From my understanding this imethod is usually used successfully on soft coal, not the stuff we are looking at here.
    As far as I can tell they have no record of using this method in similar circumstances and given the numerous faults and the closeness to sellafield its just plain ridiculous.
    Nirex own research has revealed that the whole area is severely faulted, never mind the Coal Board calling it a day because of the faults

    Liked by 1 person

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