Russian Government has a large slice of West Cumbria Mining New Director’s Coal Pie.
Our government are ignoring calls for diplomatic negotiations with Russia to take precedent over increasingly dangerous (and lucrative) war games while endorsing developments with ties to the Russian government. Makes no sense at all unless viewed through the business as usual at any cost lens.
Just a week after government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK, a new director was appointed to West Cumbria Mining.
Owen Hegarty appointed to West Cumbria Mining on 16th December 2022 is no ordinary Director. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, a private equity company who put up the £Millions to get West Cumbria Mining started.
In December 2020 the headline in Financial Review boldly asserted “There’s never been a better time to mine coal in Siberia” “Mining industry veteran Owen Hegarty says his Siberian coking coal venture is poised to capitalise on China’s blacklisting of Australian coal, as it embarked on an exquisitely timed $43.5 million fundraising on Wednesday. ASX-listed Tigers Realm Coal has been mining on Russia’s Pacific coast for three years”
So the new Director is an opportunist then – nothing wrong with that you might say.
However this opportunist has no qualms about accepting money from governments. In the case of Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal, the Russian government: “The certificates of residency in the ADZ provide Tigers Realm with valuable benefits that include looser regulation, tax breaks and the ability to receive financing from Russia’s sovereign fund.” The Beringovsky Advanced Development Zone (ADZ) was created by Russian legislation to provide an attractive investment and administrative framework for investors and companies in the Russian Far East.
Without the Russian government’s largesse Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal venture would have collapsed as according to Greenpeace’s Unearthed blog “A plan by a small Australian-listed coal company to build two massive mines in the Russian Arctic is teetering on collapse as local indigenous landowners voice their concerns, the coal price continues to crater and banks remain wary of funding the project.” The article goes on to reveal that “Before Tigers Realm Coal arrived on the scene, indigenous landowners – heavily reliant on fishing salmon – had endured a long struggle before finally winning legal title to an area of land around the Amaam lagoon, right near the site of the proposed project. The community, which actively opposed coal exploration in the region, was stunned when Tigers Realm kicked off its drilling programme in late 2010. The movement of heavy equipment over the fragile tundra impacted the protection zone of Amaam Lagoon during the crucial sockeye salmon breeding season.”
Amur Tiger (Siberian Tiger -wikipedia) food includes salmon which breed in the Amaam Lagoon.
In April 2014 Tigers Realm Coal received 36 million Australian dollars from the Russian private equity firm Baring Vostok Mining and 16 million Australian dollars from the Russian Government’s Russian Direct Investment Fund (£30M in total). According to Unearthed, Tigers Realm Coal (Tigers Realm Minerals Group TIG) have even bigger ambitions for mining in the Russian Far East.
Owen Hegarty’s appointment as Director at West Cumbria Mining hot on the heels of Government approval for the first deep coal mine in 30 years in the UK has raised not one eyebrow amongst NGOs or the press. This is despite the financial backing of WCM by Hegarty’s EMR Capital (largely from unknown sources) and the large slice of Russian ownership of Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal. The May 2022 AGM report for Tigers Realm Minerals Group (TIG) lists Owen Hegarty as “Independent Non-Executive Director” and “Founder of TIG”.
West Cumbria Mining have not yet found time to add Owen Hegarty to their “Meet the Team” despite the illustrious new team member receiving the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the June 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to the mining and minerals sector.
It does make you wonder about the Orwellian hate directed at Russia by our government on the one hand and approving a deep coal mine near Sellafield with Russian Government backed Director Owen Hegarty on the other.
Also makes you wonder about the push for a deep nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes, as the government advisor for the nuclear dump is CEO of WCM Mark Kirkbride. Kirkbride’s coal mine has been bankrolled by EMR Capital whose Russian government funded owner (to the tune of at least £30 Million) is now an appointed Director of West Cumbria Mining.
So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us all from evil Russia.
Mine Water Pollution in Whitehaven Harbour is Red Flag for New Coal Mine.
Campaigners have sent a letter (10.2.23) to the Coal Authority via Cumbrian MP Tim Farron urging the Coal Authority not to renew West Cumbria Mining’s conditional licence for onshore mining which expired in October 2022.
Radiation Free Lakeland have opposed the coal mine since 2017 on a wide range of pollution issues including “geological and hydrological damage to an already vulnerable area in close proximity to the UKs nuclear waste stockpile at Sellafield”.
Approval of Coal Mine – Whitehaven Harbour Turns Red
Secretary of State, Michael Gove approved West Cumbria Mining’s coal mine plan on 7th December, around the same time red mine water poured into Queens Dock, Whitehaven Harbour. The authorities have not yet found the cause and mine water continues to flow into the harbour and on into the Irish Sea and Solway Firth.
The letter from Radiation Free Lakeland’s Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign states:
“We understand that the Coal Authority are currently working with the Environment Agency and United Utilities to try to understand where the contaminated mine water pouring into the culvert in Queens Dock, Whitehaven is coming from.”
Honeycomb of Old Mines -West Cumbria Coast
Campaigners point out that: “The contaminated water could be coming from any one or more than one of the vulnerable honeycomb of old mines in the Whitehaven area. Even if WCM’s exploratory testing is found not to be to blame for disturbance of the hydrology and geology it is surely prudent not to allow further mining in the area above Whitehaven which is very likely to impact the fragile geology of an already heavily mined coastal area.”
The Planning Inspector Stephen Normington, a former coal miner himself admitted that induced earthquakes resulting from West Cumbria Mining’s activity “cannot be ruled out.”
Campaigners warn that “The contaminated water pouring into the harbour is said by the Environment Agency to contain “metals” and our own citizen science test of the surface water’s ph at the far side of Queens Dock nearest the sea and furthest from the culvert, while the gates were open to the sea indicated that it is nowhere near the ph 8.1 that the surface harbour seawater should be. The test indicated a ph of 6 or below. This is veering towards acidic. The pressures on the Marine Conservation Zones of the Irish Sea and Solway Firth are becoming intolerable, including damaging investigation techniques for a high level sub-sea nuclear dump for which the coal mine boss is, incredibly, a key advisor with the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.”
Do Not Issue New Licence
Campaigners urge the Coal Authority not to issue a new conditional licence for West Cumbria Mining’s controversial and potentially already polluting Onshore Whitehaven South Prospect.
[F14APower of the Authority with respect to coal mine water discharge
(1)The Authority may take such action as it considers appropriate (if any) for the purpose of preventing, or mitigating the effect of, the discharge of water from a coal mine into or on to any land or into any controlled waters.
(2)In this section and sections 4B [F2 , 4C and 4CA] below—
(a)“controlled waters” has the meaning given by section 104 of the Water Resources Act 1991; and
(b)references to coal mines are to coal mines vested in the Authority.]
While West Cumbria Mining has bigged up its business credentials to the general public and starry eyed politicians, creative accounting means that the“generational opportunity” that will help the area “prosper both nationally and internationally”. is classed as a “small business.” Small businesses can use exemption clauses so they do not need to file full company accounts. Not all small businesses use this exemption but WCM has chosen to. This is despite spending what must be £millions on Public Relations alone. At the County Council planning meeting back in March 2019, political lobbyist Tony Lodge boasted that on behalf of WCM he had successfully lobbied high profile government ministers and local politicians. No doubt the wheels were somewhat greased by the large donations made to the Conservative party by PR company New Century Media for whom Tony Lodge is Director of Political Communications
Mark Jenkinson’s (MP for Workington) article “The Case for Coal” first published in Conservative Home looks very much like the articles West Cumbria Mining’s political advisor Tony Lodge has written. All of these articles extoll the “green” credentials of metallurgical (coking) coal and are disingenuous not least by missing the point that not all coking coal is equal, not all is fit for making steel. Especially not coal with high sulphur and ash content such as would come out of WCM’s planned mine near Sellafield.
There is a question mark over where the initial cash injection for West Cumbria Mining has come from. We know it has come via EMR Capital but from who, from where? Although the public are not privvy to where the initial cash injection of millions came from, the paperwork has already been put into place by WCM to ensure that when it all goes pear shaped WCM’s land and assets go to EMR Capital who are acting on behalf of other parties. EMR identify themselves as the Security Trustee which means they are acting for someone else. We would dearly like to know who but, of course, it is deliberately hidden from view by EMR.
West Cumbria Mining executives must love a good party as the important documents detailing how assets would be protected from creditors are witnessed by one Bradley Herd – occupation – “Bartender”
This document means that creditors, the businesses who supply WCM may find that when the coal mine goes pop (to resurface Phoenix like into another more lucrative incarnation?), that their money has gone off for Christmas to the Cayman Islands protected account of EMR Capital. Likewise the former Haig Museum which was refurbished with £millions of Heritage Lottery Money and other monies from the public purse would be owned by some person/s unknown hidden in a Cayman Islands account (there must be a story to tell about how the incredible and socially important Haig Mining Museum mysteriously lost the will to live and was handed over lock stock and barrel to West Cumbria Mining?)
Its no secret that mine companies use administration or bankruptcy laws to avoid paying out on health damage, remediation or just to consolidate their assets and the CEO of West Cumbria Mining has a track record of using administration. As CEO of geotechnical company Itsmoil based in Uckfield, Sussex, Mark Kirkbride oversaw administration which was used to “give protection from creditors.” It’s not illegal if you have the right advice from the right lawyers but it is unethical. The public and those promoting West Cumbria Mining should be aware of this Ghost of Christmas Future. It is an inevitability if this mine goes ahead that assets will be “protected from creditors”. Those opposing the mine have been told to “get a conscience” and that the best ever Christmas present ever for Cumbria is a new deep coal mine under the Irish Sea near Sellafield.
article from December 16th 2020 written by Marianne Birkby
We wrote to you back in July to thank you for creating the Marine Conservation Zone above the proposed subsea Cumbria Coal Mine.
As a protector of ocean life legislating to “safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come” we are sure you must be as horrified as we are that the first round of nuclear waste Geological Disposal Facility “investigation” of the subsea area adjacent to the coal mine in Mid and South Copeland has resulted in damaging consequences to marine life.
Nuclear Dump Seismic Blasting in the “Protected” Irish Sea -“Invaluable Advisor” CEO of West Cumbria Mining
The seismic blasting which took place throughout August with blasts of noise every five seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 20 days was advised by coal boss Mark Kirkbride who has been appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management as “invaluable advisor” on nuclear dump (aka Geological Disposal Facility) “investigation techniques” and “costings” The nuclear dump “investigation technique” of seismic blasting coincided with the deaths of harbour porpoise, seals and hundreds of jelly fish along the West Coast of Cumbria. These deaths have been photographed and reported to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- Dead Strandings. Over 50,000 people signed a petition opposing the “investigation techniques” as advised by coal boss Mark Kirkbride. 1000 m deep boreholes into the seabed into a methane rich and heavily faulted area of the Irish Sea are the next stage in the GDF “investigations” plan.
Context: First Opposition to the Coal Mine Was from Nuclear Safety Campaigners
To put this into context, the first opposition raised against the coal mine was back in 2017 by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out) a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. Over the last five years our vigorous and dedicated opposition to the coal mine’s inevitable nuclear impacts has been airbrushed out of the public debate. The sheer bloody minded recklessness of proposing an earthquake inducing coal mine close to Sellafield’s growing stockpiles of high level nuclear wastes has been carefully kept out of the public arena despite our constant lobbying of NGOs and the media to flag this up.
Climate Noise and Nuclear Silence
Climate, jobs and need for steel are valid issues but to stay utterly silent on nuclear impacts is morally incoherent and myopic. Deep coal mining produces more earthquakes than fracking and this coal mine is just a few miles from the UKs stockpile of plutonium. This is not virtue signaling on our part, it is a desperate plea to you to have a mind for nuclear safety. Damage to Sellafield’s ponds from coal mine induced earthquakes and the predicted subsidence of the Sellafield mud patch above the subsea coal mine would result in release of the “historic” radioactive wastes. Cumbria would not not be alone in bearing the brunt of nuclear fallout which would extend to Europe. Sellafield’s ponds of high level wastes would not be forgiving of deep coal mine induced earthquakes.
What we never could have imagined in a million years when we first started campaigning against the earthquake inducing coal mine near Sellafield was that the coal mine CEO, Mark Kirkbride, would be appointed by Government to advise on the digging of a very deep hole in which to dump heat generating nuclear wastes.
The Copeland and Allerdale “search areas” for a Geological Disposal Facility are directly either side of Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine, which should have raised a multitude of questions from mainstream NGOs and the media – but the silence has been total.
Back in the 90s there was an inquiry which halted the government’s “NIREX” plan to bury intermediate level nuclear wastes deep underground on the Cumbrian coast near Sellafield. In 2007 the government again returned to Cumbria for a second go, this time to try putting even more dangerous high level wastes deep underground. The NIREX Inquiry Lead Inspector Chris McDonald wrote in 2007 that “..10 years ago the nuclear industry had not found a way of maintaining the stability of that geology when physically exploring the underground site. This difficulty was linked to the second issue of “imperfection”, because the imperfection consists of simply failing to meet the internationally agreed criteria on the suitability of rocks for nuclear waste deposit. The site should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting” The rocks haven’t changed, the coal mine and surrounding subsea area of the Irish Sea is on numerous faults but now as well as creating instability by “exploring the site” there would also be instability created by the massive void of a deep earthquake inducing coal mine immediately adjacent to the nuclear dump plan. The nuclear dump plan which, by the way, is advised by the same geological instability creating coal mine boss. This is mind blowing stuff.
Corruption of Governance?
The fact that UK government is taking advice from the coal mine boss on nuclear dump plans while UK government also has the last say on the coal mine is a corruption of governance. Approval of CEO Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine while KIrkbride is also the governments key nuclear dump advisor would signal the triumph of vested nuclear interests over democracy. Approval of the coal mine would confirm deep and well founded suspicions unreported in the press or flagged by mainstream NGOs that facilitating deep mining for a 25km square, 1000 metre deep, subsea nuclear dump immediately adjacent to the smaller shallower subsea coal mine was the goal all along.
Marine Conservation Zone or Nuclear Sacrifice Zone Courtesy of Coal Mine CEO?
We urge you to honour your hard won Marine Conservation Zone in the Irish Sea and even more importantly to honour government commitments to ensure nuclear safety by halting the coal mine plan. A green light for the earthquake and subsidence inducing coal mine would signal a massive red light for nuclear catastrophe.
We plead with you -Don’t do it – Do not approve the UK nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out!) – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
Marine Conservation Zones: “The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean – but we know there is more to do. Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.”
Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
CEO of West Cumbria Mining – Key Advisor for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
Letter from NIREX Inquiry Lead Inspector Chris McDonald
Flaws in search for nuclear waste site
Thu 28 Jun 2007
As the lead inspector (now retired) of the 1995-96 public inquiry into the proposed nuclear waste facility in west Cumbria, I was concerned by a couple of points in your piece on the new site search (Report, June 26). The relevant geology in west Cumbria is apparently now claimed to be “stable, although imperfect”. But 10 years ago the nuclear industry had not found a way of maintaining the stability of that geology when physically exploring the underground site.
This difficulty was linked to the second issue of “imperfection”, because the imperfection consists of simply failing to meet the internationally agreed criteria on the suitability of rocks for nuclear waste deposit. The site should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting. Also, the industry was relying on an overlying layer of sedimentary strata to dilute and disperse any groundwater leakage, when the international criteria require such a layer to act instead as a barrier. The comprehensive assessment that reports the deficiencies in detail is available on the internet (jpb.co.uk/nirexinquiry/nirex.htm). The site is not suitable and investigations should be moved elsewhere.
The site selection process was flawed, not treating safety as the most important factor, and irrationally affected by a strong desire to locate close to Sellafield. A final point – the sketch design for the repository has not been newly revealed. It was submitted to the 1995-96 inquiry, and has subsequently been discussed in technical journals.