No Need for Expensive Public Inquiry – Just Block Licence to Drill Say Leading Organisations

St Bees, where the coal mine would extend to.  Sellafield is five miles away, clearly visible.

A public inquiry into the Coal Mine has been scheduled for September.  The enormous expense of a public inquiry could be spared if the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng MP put his ‘coal mine should be blocked’ words into action and put the kaibosh on renewal of the developer’s licence to drill.   The letter asking for an immediate block on the licence to drill has been signed by organisations as diverse as the  Ethical Consumer Research Association, CND and the Sea Horse Trust.  Leading academics have also signed along with Whitehaven locals.  Asking the public to pay for an expensive inquiry into a coal mine that is guaranteed to flout climate and nuclear safety and would end up being a stranded asset at a time of austerity is bonkers – the mine could be stopped today.

Here is the letter sent on Friday…

29.3.21

To the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng Secretary of State for BEIS

BLOCK THE CUMBRIA COAL MINE’S LICENCE TO DRILL


I am writing to you again on behalf of nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland.  We were the first to call out the proposed coal mine development in Cumbria and remain unequivocally opposed to the plan on both climate and nuclear safety grounds so we were delighted to hear your statement that there are “very compelling reasons” to block the mine.

BEIS ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE COAL AUTHORITY

The position of Secretary of State grants the wherewithal to put these words into action and to actually block the coal mine by ordering the Coal Authority (who report to BEIS) not to renew or extend existing conditional licenses or grant new unconditional licences to the developers West Cumbria Mining whose licence to drill has now lapsed.

BLOCK THE COAL MINE, SAVE THE PUBLIC PURSE EXPENSIVE PUBLIC INQUIRY

This would save the public purse the huge expense of a public inquiry and send a strong message to the UK and our international neighbours that BEIS is committed to both climate and nuclear safety.  

THIS IS NOT “ANYWHERE” IT WOULD BE FIVE MILES FROM SELLAFIELD

While the significant climate impacts of this coal mine would be exactly the same anywhere else in the UK, this coal mine is not just anywhere in the UK. The mine would be largely subsea off the West Coast of Cumbria, would extend to within five miles of the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site and be directly under a massive nuclear waste dump known as the Sellafield Mud Patch.  Sellafield has been pumping eight million litres of  “low level” radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea every day. It been doing that for decades and nuclear wastes still continue to arrive in West Cumbria.  The nuclear waste discharge pipeline out to the Irish Sea is in constant use.  The coal mine developers say there would be “expected subsidence” of the Irish Sea bed.   Recent reports (attached) have indicated this would most likely result in the resuspension of decades worth of Sellafield’s radioactive wastes now largely immobilised in the Irish Sea bed.  Radioactive wastes including plutonium would be resuspended back into the water column, to ours and to neighbouring shores.  The one thing not to do with a radioactive waste dump is disturb it.

EIGHT YEARS SINCE THE COAL AUTHORITY/BEIS RUBBERSTAMPED ORIGINAL CONDITIONAL LICENCE TO DRILL EXPLORATORY BOREHOLES.  NEW EVIDENCE

The world has changed since the Coal Authority issued West Cumbria Mining with conditional licences 8 years ago.  Eight years ago there was no public scrutiny as the Coal Authority was permitted to issue licences above the heads of the public and Cumbrian councillors.   Eight years on and many miles of subsea ‘exploratory’ mining boreholes and core samples later, questions of climate and nuclear safety are being asked about this coal mine.  Despite the controversy the Coal Authority have replied directly to us saying that there would be no public consultation into issuing West Cumbria Mining with new licences to drill, this is outrageous.    

APPOINTMENT OF COAL BOSS TO GOVERNMENT ADVISOR ON NUCLEAR DUMP

As well as being under decades of Sellafield’s discharged nuclear wastes the mine itself would be adjacent to the area being promoted as a possible Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes under the Irish Sea.  BEIS’s wide ranging responsibilities include the provision of and management of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM). The CEO of the coal mine Mark Kirkbride has been appointed by BEIS to CoRWM (Nov 2019) to advise government on ‘Delivery”  of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).  The proposed coal mine  would make a void of 136 Million square metres.  What destabilising impact would this have on the laterally neighbouring rocks Radioactive Waste Management (advised by CoRWM) tell us are “Possible” for a GDF 

PUBLIC INQUIRY WOULD LIKELY BE LIMITED IN SCOPE – THERE ARE QUESTIONS SUCH AS COAL AUTHORITY/BEIS INVOLVEMENT IN HANDING OVER OF HAIG COLLIERY FOR £1 TO COAL MINE DEVELOPERS

These questions (and more) should, but are not likely to be within the remit of a forthcoming public inquiry focussing on planning rather than issues of governance and nuclear safety.  The public have already paid out £millions for this coal mine, to be precise,  £2.5 Million in Heritage Lottery Funds for the Haig Colliery Museum which was then handed over to the developers for £1 (courtesy of the Coal Authority handing the developers a pre-emption right).   

As Secretary of State responsible for the Coal Authority you could ensure that the public do not have to foot the bill yet again, this time for a public inquiry into a coal mine that should have been scrapped yesterday. Tomorrow would be a good day to order the Coal Authority not to issue West Cumbria Mining with licence to drill.  By taking this action the coal mine would be blocked and the expense of a public inquiry prevented.  

LEADING CUMBRIAN COUNCILLORS HAD ALREADY CHANGED THEIR MINDS AND VOTED NO.  A NEW APPRAISAL BY COUNCIL IS NOW SUPERCEDED BY PUBLIC INQUIRY

Leading Cumbrian Councillors had already reassessed their former support for the mine and voted “no.”  Through this No vote they have voiced their opposition alongside leading academics, scientists,  politicians, the public and many organisations.   We urge you to honour the wishes of leading Cumbrian councillors and the millions of people represented by this letter and block this coal mine. The reasons for doing so are not just “compelling” they are overwhelming.  

The mine could be stopped tomorrow and the buck stops with BEIS.

Yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby, founder of Radiation Free Lakeland
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a RaFL campaign
Brian Jones, Vice Chair, CND Cymru
Jo Smoldon on Behalf of Stop Hinkley
Jonathon Porritt,
Rebecca Heaton Cooper, The Heaton cooper studio, Grasmere
Terry Bennett, Emeritus Professor, Nottingham University
Kate Hudson, General Secretary, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Anita Stirzaker, Bowness business owner
Alison Denwood, George and Dragon Public House, Harrington, West Cumbria
Harry Doloughan, Whitehaven
Simon Burdis, Northern England, family carer
Philip Gilligan, South Lakeland and Lancaster District CND
Dave Webb, Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
David Smythe, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, University of Glasgow
Dr Paul Dorfman, UCL Energy Institute
Dr Rachel Western
Postcards from Cumbria – artists collectiveDavid and Una Hatton, Wigton, Cumbria,
Sarah J Darby BSc DPhil Associate Professor, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Samagita Moisha, Lancaster. Concerns for nuclear safety presented to Cumbria CC at both committee hearings
Tim Deere-Jones, Marine Research & Consultancy
Joan West, Cumbria and Lancashire Area CND
Martin Kendall, Resident High Walton, Near Whitehaven
Oliver Tickell, journalist and campaigner
Irene Sanderson, North Cumbria Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament
Walter Bennett, I am 90 years of age, born in Frizington, Cumberland, son of a coal miner, (former Director responsible for Technology in an International Company)
Dr Carl Iwan Clowes OBE, Fellow Royal College of Physicians Faculty of Public Health, Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners
Mag Richards, WANA, the Welsh Anti-Nuclear Alliance
Ian Ralls, Anti-Nuclear Campaigner
Neil Wilson, Life Long Conservationist, Hodbarrow Mine Action to the Royal Courts of Justice
London Greenpeace, Core Participant within Undercover Policing Public Inquiry (Spycops)
Richard Bramhall, Low Level Radiation Campaign
David Penney, Coordinator, Cumbria and Lancashire Area CND
Martyn Lowe, Close Capenhurst Campaign
Andrew Warren, former special advisor to the House of Commons environment select committee.
Neil Garrick-Maidment FBNA, Executive Director and Founder, The Seahorse Trust
Christine Gibson, Keep it Green, Northern Ireland

Mark Jennings, West Cumbria Water (Save our water services}
David Dane, Veteran Campaigner

Rob Harrison, Ethical Consumer Research Association.

References 

BEIS Ministerial Responsibility for the Coal Authority

“Ministerial responsibility 11. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is accountable to Parliament for the activities and performance of the Authority and it is proposed that any new Minister with responsibility for the Authority will carry out a visit to the Authority within six months of taking up appointment to learn about the role of the Authority and its functions. Typically, we would expect the chair and chief executive to meet with the minister at least annually. 12. Specific responsibilities include:  approving the Authority’s overall strategic objectives and the policy and performance frameworkwithin which the Authority operates (as set out in this framework document and associated documents  keeping Parliament informed about the Authority’s performance  approving the amount of grant-in-aid/grant/other funds to be paid to the Authority, and securing Parliamentary approval  carrying out responsibilities specified in the Act including appointments to the board, determining the terms and conditions of board members, consenting to the appointment of the, approval of terms and conditions of staff (Including pay) in accordance with the latest pay guidance  laying of the annual report and accounts before Parliament”

Sellafield Radioactive Discharge on the Irish Sea Bed directly beneath the coal mine plan and question of ‘Who is Responsible for Safety of the Discharged Nuclear Wastes?’  is subject to complaint being dealt with by the Information Commissioner
https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/responsibility_for_discharged_ra

Coal Authority Licences https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2021/01/18/do-not-rubber-stamp-new-coal-authority-licenses-for-cumbria/

6th Climate Budget   https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/sixth-carbon-budget/     note the Climate Change Committee is appointed by BEIS 

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in West Cumbria https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/west_cumbria_mining_abstraction#incoming-1625582

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in Bangladesh https://www.iwapublishing.com/news/arsenic-contamination-groundwater-bangladesh-environmental-and-social-disaster

Who is Responsible for Radioactive Waste on the Irish Sea Bed – Call from Nuclear Free Local Authorities NFLA troubled by the UK Communities Minister not ‘calling in’ the decision over a deep underground coal mine in West Cumbria

Haig Colliery and Mining MuseumReturn of final meeting in a creditors’ voluntary winding up https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/04914614/filing-history

West Cumbria Mining’s documents detailing how assets worth £millions bought for £1would be protected from creditors

24 Nov 2020Registration of charge 071433980002, the document can be found here  https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/07143398/filing-history


The steel industry will soon have little use for Cumbrian coal

https://www.businessgreen.com/opinion/4027666/steel-industry-soon-little-cumbrian-coal

Letter from the Coal Authority (who are a BEIS authority)  to Radiation Free Lakeland

.”This site currently has 3 conditional licences which have been in place since 2013/14. A conditional licence allows coal exploration and would need to be replaced by a full licence in order for coaling to begin. On 18th January 2021 date West Cumbria Mining Ltd applied to extend the end dates of 2 of these conditional licences (UND/0184 & UND/0177). They were due to expire on 24th January 2021 but they will remain in place until the application to extend them has been determined. No exploratory works will be undertaken during this time. The application will take approximately 3 months to determine. If the conditional licences were extended the operator would still need to apply for one or more full coaling licences before coaling can begin. When the conditional licence extension application has been determined the outcome will be posted on our website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coal-mining-licenceapplications.

note: the Coal Authority later confirmed there would be no public consultation or scrutiny over the issuing of new licences to drill for West Cumbria Mining.

3 thoughts on “No Need for Expensive Public Inquiry – Just Block Licence to Drill Say Leading Organisations

  1. Pingback: Countering Capenhurst – Late Spring 2021 – Close Capenhurst

  2. Pingback: Mr Nuclear Waste and Mr Coal – Top Cronies..Shhh – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

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