Mine Water Pollution in Whitehaven Harbour is Red Flag for New Coal Mine.

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.  

Additional Notes and References:

West Cumbria Mining -Whitehaven South Prospect conditional licence https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1085211/Whitehaven_South_Prospect_-_CA11.UND.0177.N.pdf

Coal Authority and Mine Water Discharge

[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.]


Honeycomb of coal mines in Whitehaven area https://thebeacon-whitehaven.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/CMG9-Coal-mines-in-the-Whitehaven-area-collieries-plotted-on-map.pdf

Abandoned mines and the water environment – Environment Agency: “When the mines close, the pumps are switched off and the groundwater level rises until it reaches the surface or discharges into overlying aquifers. This may take a few months or many years. Flooding of the exposed seams stops the oxidation of the sulphide minerals, but dissolves the metal ions and sulphates to form sulphuric acid.” https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/291482/LIT_8879_df7d5c.pdf

Radon in minewater https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343483994_Radon_Hazard_Assessment_in_Region_with_Intense_Coal_Mining_Industry

Coal Mine’s Secret Santa – Want a Clue? Its HOTTER than Coking Coal!

Image: Mark Kirkbride the multi-talented CEO of West Cumbria Mining currently focussed on coal but Kirkbride is also employed by UK Government to advise on the plan to Deliver a deep Geological Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes. UK Government via Secretary of State for Communities Michael Gove MP, are due to take a decison on their “invaluable” nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine any day now. If it sounds dodgy – thats because it is. It is a “Secret Santa” surprise.

Why not retweet this to @michaelgove and tell him to stop with the nuclear waste/coal cronyism, turn down the earthquake inducing coal mine near Sellafield being touted by their key nuclear dump advisor.

A Plea to Michael Gove Secretary of State:”Marine Conservation Zone or a Nuclear Sacrifice Zone Courtesy of Coal Mine CEO?”  

The map above is a collation of the GDF Partnership maps of South, Mid Copeland and Allerdale which are never shown as a coherent whole. We have also included the coal mine and Sellafield – also not shown on the official GDF maps. As you can see the coal mine sits directly between the GDF (aka nuclear dump) “search areas” upon which the coal mine CEO is advising UK Government.

5th December 2022

Dear Secretary of State Michael Gove MP,

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.

Geological Instability

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.

yours sincerely

Marianne Birkby

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

In office

11 June 2017 – 24 July 2019


Petition – Save the Whale and the Snail from Nuclear Waste Services Blasting the Irish Sea


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.

Chris McDonald

Camberley, Surrey


Cumbria Coal Mine Nuclear Warnings

Anthropomorphic Earthquakes in the UK https://www.researchgate.net/publication/283186824_Anthropogenic_earthquakes_in_the_UK_A_national_baseline_prior_to_shale_exploitation

Sellafield’s Magnox Swarf Silos’ Leaking https://www.gamechangers.technology/challenge/Leak_prevention_or_minimisation

Sellafield’s “legacy”  – a deep earthquake inducing coal mine nearby?