The following letters were sent to press on Monday – if anyone sees anything published please let us know- thanks!
To Local Press
All MPs in Cumbria have supported sanctions imposed on Russian companies and oligarchs, with the supplying of arms to Ukrainian forces taking precedent over any peace negotiations. There is however a strange anomaly in Cumbria with the appointment of a Russian government funded Director to West Cumbria Mining. In December 2022 just a week after UK Government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK Owen Hegarty officially joined West Cumbria Mining. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, the private equity company who put up the money backing WCM’s undersea coal mine near Sellafield. He has fingers in lots of pies. Back in December 2020 Owen Hegarty said “There’s never been a better time to mine coal on Russia’s Pacific coast due to China’s blacklisting of Australian coal 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, to the tune of at least £30 Million.
The CEO of West Cumbria Mining Mark Kirkbride who appointed Owen Hegarty (WCM funder) is also advising the UK Government on the “biggest environmental project in the UK” aka an undersea nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes (prime area in the frame is next to the coal mine). So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us from Russia who are also bankrolling the new Director of West Cumbria Mining. Why has this not raised lots of questions from those MPs who are “horrified” by Russia?
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
Letter to The Guardian
Following Government approval of the Cumbria coal mine the Guardian reports “coalmine is owned by private equity firm with Cayman Islands base” ( Sandra Laville, Environment Correspondent Thu 8 Dec 2022). The story does not end there. A week later on Dec 16th the owner of the private equity firm, Owen Hegarty was appointed as Director of West Cumbria Mining. Owen Hegarty is also the founder of Tigers Realm Coal who are responsible for bringing coal mining to a previously coal mine free area – in Siberia!.
Owen Hegarty the new Director of the Cumbria coal mine has not only generated massive environmental destruction in Chukotka and the Bering Sea area but has also been bankrolled by the Russian government to the tune of tens of £Millions playing fast and loose with the human rights of regional indigenous communities into the bargain. This is a massive scandal.
On the one hand Government is providing armaments to Ukraine against Russia and on the other it is approving an earthquake inducing coal mine near the worlds biggest stockpile of plutonium at Sellafield whose Director is bankrolled by the Russian Government. The same Cumbrian MPs who cheerlead for the Russian bankrolled Director’s coal mine are also cheerleading War against Russia rather than peace negotiations. It makes no sense.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign address supplied
Just a week after UK Government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK, a new director was appointed. Owen Hegarty was appointed by West Cumbria Mining on 16th December 2022. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, the private equity company who put up the money backing West Cumbria Mining’s undersea coal mine near Sellafield in Cumbria. He has fingers in lots of pies. Back in December 2020 Owen Hegarty said “There’s never been a better time to mine coal on Russia’s Pacific coast due to China’s blacklisting of Australian coal 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 to the tune of at least £30 Million. The CEO of West Cumbria Mining Mark Kirkbride who presumably appointed Owen Hegarty (WCM funder) is also advising the UK Government on the “biggest environmental project in the UK” aka an undersea nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes (prime area in the frame is next to the coal mine). So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us from Russia who are also bankrolling the new Director of West Cumbria Mining. Why has this not raised questions ?
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
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.]
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.
Alexey Mordashov – the main shareholder and chairman of Severstal, a Russian conglomerate with interests in metal, energy and mining companies visited Whitehaven in 2017. The rumour on the harbour at Whitehaven where the boat caused quite a stir was that the Russian businessman was visiting West Cumbria Mining.
Now the yacht has been seized by Italy: “A spokesperson for Italian PM Mario Draghi announced the move on Friday night, disclosing the value of the yacht while stating it was taken near the coastal town of Imperia in the country’s northwestern extremity.
“Italy’s police [have] just seized ‘Lady M Yacht,’ a 65 million euros ($70 million) vessel belonging to Alexey Alexandrovits Mordaschov located in Imperia (Liguria) – in compliance with the recent EU sanctions,” the spokesperson, Ferdinando Giugliano, wrote in a tweet.
Footage purporting to show the police operation in action has been published by local media, showing an illuminated ‘Lady M’ surrounded by officers and law enforcement vessels”.
A great article by Paul Brown below – there is however a big elephant in the room regarding this story. The elephant in the room is the Cumbrian Mud Patch – the radioactive silts on the Irish Sea bed resulting from decades of reprocessing. The coal mine due to be decided upon soon by Government (after Planning Inspector Stephen Normington makes his recommendation) would churn up this nuclear crapola on the seabed. A tsunami of radioactive wastes now largely inert (apart from tidal processes) would be resuspended in the water column – returning to the shores and to the rest of the world. It takes only 4 years for Sellafield’s seaborne waste to reach the Arctic. The coal mine would cause subsidence and resulting resuspension of nuclear wastes. The coal mine would cause earthquakes. Both these outcomes are not “likely” they are certain. The coal mine CEO is also employed by government as advisor on the plans for a deep (and not so deep) nuclear dump for heat generating nuclear wastes – you couldn’t make it up.
Sellafield nuclear plant. Photo by Dafydd Waters/Creative Commons.
Seventy years after the United Kingdom first began extracting plutonium from spent uranium fuel to make nuclear weapons, the industry is finally calling a halt to reprocessing, leaving the country with 120 tons of the metal, the biggest stockpile in the world. However, the government has no idea what to do with it.
Having spent hundreds of billions of pounds producing plutonium in a series of plants at Sellafield in the Lake District, the UK policy is to store it indefinitely—or until it can come up with a better idea. There is also 90,000 tons of less dangerous depleted uranium in warehouses in the UK, also without an end use.
Plans to use plutonium in fast breeder reactors and then mixed with uranium as a fuel for existing fission reactors have long ago been abandoned as too expensive, unworkable, or sometimes both. Even burning plutonium as a fuel, while technically possible, is very costly.
The closing of the last reprocessing plant, as with all nuclear endeavours, does not mean the end of the industry, in fact it will take at least another century to dismantle the many buildings and clean up the waste. In the meantime, it is costing £3 billion a year to keep the site safe.
Perhaps one of the strangest aspects of this story to outside observers is that, apart from a minority of anti-nuclear campaigners, this plutonium factory in one of prettiest parts of England hardly ever gets discussed or mentioned by the UK’s two main political parties. Neither has ever objected to what seems on paper to be a colossal waste of money.
The secret of this silence is that the parliamentary seats in the Lake District are all politically on a knife-edge. No candidate for either Conservative or Labour can afford to be anti-nuclear, otherwise the seat would certainly go to the opposition party.
The story of Sellafield matters, however, particularly to countries like Japan, which is poised to open its own reprocessing works at Rokkasho, Aomori in September. Strangely, too, this is one of Japan’s most scenic areas.
This plan is particularly controversial in a country that is the only one so far to have had nuclear bombs used against it. Like Britain, Japan has no obvious outlet for the plutonium it will produce, except nuclear weapons and fast breeder reactors, this last a technology Japan has already tried and has ended in failure. It also seems unnecessary because Japan already owns a plutonium stockpile of several tonnes from sending spent fuel to the UK to be reprocessed.
While there is much more opposition in Japan, including from the influential New Diplomacy Initiative, there is local support for the works because politicians see employment opportunities. But there is also international concern about the potential spread of nuclear weapon capability to Japan and beyond.
In Britain, reprocessing began in 1952 entirely as a military endeavour. The idea was to make hydrogen bombs so Britain could keep up with the United States and Russia in the nuclear arms race.
A much larger plant opened in 1964, and it is this one that is finally due to close this year. It had a nominal capacity to reprocess 1,500 tonnes of spent fuel a year for both military and civilian purposes. It reprocessed fuel from the UK’s 26 Magnox, Italy’s Latina, and Japan’s Tokai Magnox nuclear reactors. It has reprocessed 45,000 tonnes so far and has 318 more to go.
From its inception, the reprocessing works was a highly polluting plant, discharging contaminated water into the Irish Sea. Plutonium, cesium, and other radionuclides were sent out to sea in a mile-long pipeline. Radioactivity was picked up in shellfish in Ireland, Norway, and Denmark, and in local seafood that had to be tested regularly to see if the radioactive load they carried made them too dangerous to eat. Local people were advised to keep their consumption of shellfish low. These discharges have now been considerably cleaned up.
A third “recycling” project, the Thermal Oxide Reprocessing Plant (THORP), was planned in 1977, expected to capitalize on the then projected expansion of nuclear power and to provide plutonium and uranium for newer reactors, and for the still-hoped-for fast breeder reactor programme. Government approval was given nine years later, by which time contracts for reprocessing had been made with a number of foreign companies. The new plant’s biggest customer was Japan.
So in the end, reprocessing became a commercial venture rather than producing anything useful. Nine countries sent spent fuel to Sellafield to have plutonium and uranium extracted for reuse and paid a great deal of money to do so. In reality, very little of either metal has ever been used because mixed oxide fuels were too expensive, and fast breeder reactors could never be scaled up sufficiently to be economic.
The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA), the UK government body now charged with keeping Sellafield safe and ultimately dismantling it, still makes £820 million (US$1.16 billion) a year storing spent fuel, plutonium, uranium, and nuclear waste for foreign governments and the UK’s Ministry of Defence. This latter waste includes the radioactive material from powering nuclear submarines and manufacturing bombs and warheads. The rest of the £3.345 billion (US$4.570) budget comes from the UK taxpayer.
In its current plan, the NDA hopes to have disposed of all spent fuel by 2125—103 years hence. All buildings will be demolished or reused by 2133.
Although these targets seem a long way off, some of the interim ones are already unlikely. The documents say the NDA hopes to establish a deep depository for high-level waste by 2040—but the UK government has been looking for a site since 1980, and every one “found” has so far been rejected. It has just started the search all over again, offering lots of financial incentives to local communities to consider the idea.
Whatever happens, one thing is certain—most of the 11,000 people currently employed at Sellafield will still have jobs for decades to come.
This article first appeared on The Energy Mix and is available for republication through the commons.
A letter sent today to the Coal Mine Planning Inspector
Dear Mr Normington,
Radiation Free Lakeland would like to bring this correspondence to your attention. The correspondence is from the Marine Management Organisation to West Cumbria Mining and It is in regard to exploratory borehole drilling by West Cumbria Mining. As you know the St Bees marine area is a sensitive receptor. It is for this reason that the small quarry at St Bees head, Birkhams Quarry “has key operational conditions imposed by Cumbria County Council planning permission 4/02/9022 which affords protection to sea birds by prohibiting blasting from within the bird-breeding season; Condition 21 which establishes a noise limit of 45dB(A) (normal speaking volume) at the nearest properties and Condition 14 which restricts operations to 08.00-18.00 hours on Mondays to Fridays.” The exploratory drilling operations by West Cumbria Mining also had conditions placed upon them but unlike the operators of Birkhams Quarry, WCM have sought to and it seems succeeded in overriding planning conditions placed upon them by the Marine Management Organisation in respect of subsea drilling. In May 2017 “WCM requested that in order to complete works within the summer period, condition 5.2.12 be removed in order to allow drilling operations to take place 24 hours a day. Whilst the MMO appreciates that this would allow progress to be made far more quickly with drilling, there have been a number of concerns raised again regarding the potential for 24 hour drilling to disrupt sensitive receptors in the vicinity of the drilling rig. These largely relate to the sensitive receptors mentioned above and the uncertainty surrounding the impact of disruption to such receptors from vibration and sound pressure changes in the water column.”
WCM have been ruthless in pushing for restrictions to be lifted on their exploratory borehole drilling and on the 8th Sept 2017 they accidently hit a gas methane pocket off St Bees Head while doing their exploratory drilling. This necessitated a call out of the Irish Coast Guard.
It is terrifying that WCM now say they “may not need a licence” at all from the Marine Management Organisation should Secretary of State Michael Gove approve the plan to drill for coal under the IrishSea just five miles from Sellafield.
With kind regards
Marianne Birkby Radiation Free Lakeland (who run the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign)
Attatchments: MMO correspondence with WCM from 2017 on allowing borehole regulations to be overidden Birkhams Quarry, St Bees – Cumbria County Council document from 2015 – Quarry is strictly regulated
The video is a very brief summary from Radiation Free Lakeland of the induced earthquake and subsidence expected due to the coal mine. Sellafield, the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site is just five miles away. What could go wrong
The more people who give a mention to this the more likely the Inspector will include it as a reason to ditch this coal mine in his recommendations to Government
CALL OUT FOR ARTISTS who would like to join our Giant Postcard to the Planning Inspector . Poems, photographs and paintings include the beauty and wildlife of the West Coast of Cumbria. Guest artist is the internationally renowned Julian Cooper. As well as the beauty of West Cumbria, nuclear impacts of this coal mine which would be just five miles from Sellafield are also featured in the artworks. The public inquiry into the coal mine will commence on 7th September. It looks like it will be a virtual inquiry (and the details of how to attend are below).
We are going to put together a giant postcard of the artworks produced by our Postcards from Cumbria group to send to the Planning Inspector . The postcard will be a visual reminder of the beauty of Cumbria and what the coal mine could devastate. The coal mine could be a catalyst for a nuclear sacrifice zone. Induced seismicity in the area of the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site is inevitable should the Inspector recommend approval for a deep mine so close to Sellafield.
A Giant Postcard from Cumbria will be sent to the Inspector showing a diversity of amazing artworks, photographs and even poems produced by a group of artists of all ages, including professionals and schoolchildren . If you know of anyone who would like to join the Giant Postcard from Cumbria and have artworks included showing the beauty and character especially of the West Coast of Cumbria – please ask them to get in contact (Wastwater@protonmail.com) or to join the group .https://www.facebook.com/groups/268440254181433
THANK YOU to ALL THE ARTISTS !
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and Postcards from Cumbria
INFO on the forthcoming Planning Inquiry below from Cumbria County Council
Applicant’s name: West Cumbria Mining Ltd
Reference: APP/H0900/V/21/3271069I refer to the above planning application and the decision by the Secretary of State to call-in theproposal to be determined by Public Inquiry.The inquiry will commence on 7th September at 10am.
Anyone wishing to participate more fully in the inquiry and take an active part in proceedings mustmake that interest known to the Planning Inspectorate Case Officer as soon as possible prior tothe Inquiry, either by email or telephone after reading the Inquiry Attendance Information set out below.The Case Officer contact at the Planning Inspectorate: Elizabeth Humphrey – email@example.com; tel 0303 444 5384. Inquiry
Before deciding whether to take an active part in the Inquiry, you need to think carefully about the
points you wish to make. All written submissions from application/call in stages will be taken into account by the Inspector and re-stating the same points won’t add any additional weight to them.If you feel that taking part in the Inquiry is right for you in whatever capacity, you can participate in a number of ways: To take part using video, participants will need to have access to Microsoft Teams (via an app orweb browser). This link gives further information on how to use this. https://support.office.com/enus/teams. Alternatively you can take part by telephone. Please note that joining by telephone to the 020 number that will be used will incur charges. You should check actual rates with your provider. https://www.gov.uk/call-chargesIf you wish to just observe the event, you should make that clear in your response to the Case Officer. If you wish to take an active part in the proceedings, please make clear in your responseto the Case Officer whether you wish only to appear at the Inquiry and make a statement, or whether you would also wish to ask questions on particular topics.
If you want to take an active part but feel unable to for any reason, and/or the points you want to make are not covered in the evidence of others, consider whether someone else could raise them on your behalf.Registered participants in whatever capacity will receive individual joining instructions, providing details of any requirements, guidance and support whether joining by Teams or telephone. You should note that the event will be recorded by the Planning Inspectorate for training and quality assurance purposes.The decision will be published on https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/
Mr Paul Haggin Manager Development Control and Sustainable Development – Cumbria County Council
Bottom image is West Cumbria Mining licence application areas for under the Irish Sea – the black bits are known land and sea coal reserves. Details of the latest applications from the developers are being withheld from public view.
Thank you so much to everyone for donating to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. Further Donations mean that we will be able to continue to have the expert advice of lawyers Leigh Day to call upon.
The Coal Authority are refusing to give the public sight of the latest licence applications from West Cumbria Mining despite our repeated calls for them to do so
At Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole’s request Tim Farron MP has sent a letter to the Coal Authority urging them to at least ensure the Planning Inspector at the forthcoming Inquiry has sight of the licences.
The inquiry is, I believe, flawed in many other respects. Not least because the County Council have now withdrawn their planning approval for the mine. We wonder if there are any other cases of a public inquiry having been held into an approval decision that no longer stands? The Coal boss Mark Kirkbride has been appointed to advise the government on “Delivery” of a deep geological nuclear dump for the UK’s heat generating nuclear wastes. NO-one in their right mind would think of burying heat generating nuclear waste in or under a coal mine however, the proposed coal mine is slap bang in the middle of the subsea “search area” for a GDF.
The coal mine development will now be ultimately decided upon by government – the same government who have appointed the coal boss to advise them on nuclear dump plans. Crazy creepy or what?
It is remarkable to put it mildly that non of this blatant cronyism has been reported in the media or raised any NGO eyebrows given the huge public interest in this coal mine (the public interest is largely thanks to the help of all who have donated to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole).
I have copied our latest press release, (ignored by the press) to the Society of Editors to ask if there is a reason for the silence – maybe it just isn’t newsworthy? (!!)
With all best wishes
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
We have been directed to you following a FOI to the Defence and Security Media Advisory Committee following the worrying lack of reporting on the appointment of the CEO of Cumbria Coal mine to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. There has been acres of press on the climate impacts of the Cumbria Coal Mine in contrast to nothing (apart from in the Isle of Man) on the cronyism surrounding the appointment of the coal boss Mark Kirkbride to CoRWM.
Our latest press release to national and local press is below. So far we have had no response. If this has not got a DA notice on it then we wonder why the silence on this serious issue.
If you can shed any light on why there appears to be a media black out we would be very grateful.
with kind regards
Marianne Birkby on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland
CUMBRIA COAL MINE’S LICENCE APPLICATIONS SHROUDED IN “ALICE IN WONDERLAND” SECRECY.
In a letter sent to the Coal Authority today, the nuclear safety campaigners who were the first to raise opposition to the Cumbrian Coal Mine back in 2017, say that the forthcoming Public Inquiry would be “invalid and an entirely profligate waste of public money”. This is, they say, because “Cumbria County Council has now withdrawn its planning approval for the mine and the latest Cumbrian coal mine licence applications are shrouded in secrecy”
The controversial coal mine developers, West Cumbria Mining (WCM), have applied for two new applications which Radiation Free Lakeland (RaFL) have repeatedly asked for sight of under Freedom of Information. The Coal Authority have replied to the campaign group saying that: “the Operator (WCM) does not give permission to have their applications disclosed…for the reasons (of operator confidentiality) set out in the public interest test.”
Another twist in the long held opposition to the mine by nuclear campaigners is that the CEO of the coal mine, Mark Kirkbride was appointed in 2019 (in the days following the County Council’s coal mine approval) to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. CoRWM are the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy appointed body who advise government on ‘Delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility” for high level nuclear wastes. RaFL have long argued that the coal mine is primarily a “Trojan Horse to embed the infrastructure in Cumbria for a deep nuclear dump.”
Marianne Birkby, the founder of Radiation Free Lakeland who set in motion a Judicial Review against the coal mine with environmental lawyers Leigh Day, has said: “For the Coal Authority to say that it is in the public interest to protect the wishes of the developer in non-disclosure is very Alice in Wonderland like. Disclosure of Information regarding developments which would produce emissions is a legal obligation. Emissions in the case of this uniquely dangerous coal mine would include not only CO2, and methane (the developer’s exploratory boreholes have already accidentally hit a methane pocket a few miles from Sellafield under the Irish Sea’) but also radioactive emissions from resuspension of 70 years worth of Sellafield’s wastes resulting from the “likely subsidence” of the Irish Sea bed. There is also the possibility of seismic damage to Sellafield’s infrastructure. A haiirline crack which would be of negligible damage anywhere else, could be catastrophic at Sellafield, the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site.”
The campaign group’s letter to the Coal Authority today concludes that ” disclosure of the licence applications would be the right thing to do, both from a legal aspect and from the Coal Authority’s stated ideals of public interest, openess, transparency and safeguarding”.
LETTER TO COAL AUTHORITY SEE BELOW
Radiation Free Lakeland are running two major campaigns:
On Monday, July 5th, 2021 at 8:44 AM, Wastwater wrote:
Thank you for your email explaining the Coal Authority’s reasoning as to why they will not disclose West Cumbria Mining’s new applications to extend/vary their original 2013/14 licences. It is of huge concern that the Coal Authority is deferring to the developer Mark Kirkbride of West Cumbria Mining in non-disclosure. How can the public inquiry due to start in September be valid when the public and the Inspector have not had sight of the developer’s plans? Our MP Tim Farron has written to BEIS, asking that the Planning Inquiry Inspector should have full sight of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications.
There are serious concerns too about the blatant cronyism between the controversial Government policy for “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility for nuclear wastes and Mark Kirkbride CEO of West Cumbria Mining. Kirkbride has been appointed by BEIS to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management and has delivered initial costing estimates to government for mining a deep geological disposal facility for heat generating nuclear wastes within the same “search” area as his coal mine (Kirkbride Costing for opening coal mine = £160M / Kirkbride Cost estimate for opening a GDF = £1.7 Billion ‘just for the hole’ using same suppliers as the coal mine)
For the Coal Authority to say that it is in the public interest to protect the wishes of the developer in non-disclosure is very Alice in Wonderland like. Disclosure of Information regarding developments which would produce emissions is a legal obligation. We note the following in relation to release of information to the public about developments which would produce emissions:
“How is information relating to emissions treated differently? – regulation 12(9)
The Regulations stress transparency and openness in relation to information about emissions. They provide a greater right of access to information about emissions – regulation 12(9) removes the right to rely on certain exceptions if someone requests information is on emissions.
When requested information is on emissions, you cannot rely on the exceptions at:
regulation 12(5)(d) – confidentiality of the proceedings of a public authority
regulation 12(5)(e) – confidentiality of commercial or industrial information
regulation 12(5)(f) – interests of the person who provided the information
regulation 12(5)(g) – protection of the environment to which the information relates.
Emissions in the case of this uniquely dangerous coal mine would include not only CO2, and methane (the developer’s exploratory boreholes have already accidentally hit a methane pocket a few miles from Sellafield under the Irish Sea’) but also radioactive emissions from resuspension of 70 years worth of Sellafield’s radioactive waste discharge in the “likely subsidence” (say WCM) of the Irish Sea bed. There is also the possibility of seismic damage to Sellafield’s infrastructure – a hairline crack of negligible damage anywhere else could be catastrophic at Sellafield. A “negligible” risk of seismic damage is too much in this vicinity.
We believe that disclosure of the licence applications would be the right thing to do both from a legal aspect and from the Coal Authority’s ideals of public interest, openess, transparency and safeguarding.
We ask the Coal Authority again for full sight of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications with reference to the following:
“There is a presumption in favour of disclosure. The public authority must weigh the public interest arguments for maintaining the exception in regulation 12(5)(b) against those for disclosure. General principles of regulation 12(5)(b) 5. Under EIR regulation 5(1), public authorities are under a duty to make available environmental information that has been requested. Regulations 12(4) and 12(5) provide exceptions to this duty. 6. The exceptions under regulation 12(5) allow a public authority to refuse to disclose environmental information where “its disclosure would adversely affect” the interests listed in each exception. 7. The public authority must apply a presumption in favour of disclosure, both in engaging the exception and in carrying out the public interest test. https://ico.org.uk/media/for-organisations/documents/1625/course_of_justice_and_inquiries_exception_eir_guidance.pdf “
CONCLUSIONS AND ACTIONS
All the information within WCM’s latest licence applications should be made available in the public interest (financial information could be redacted).
MP Tim Farron has at our request written to the Secretary of State for BEIS to ask that the latest full licence applications are made available to the Inspector in the forthcoming Planning Inquiry into the coal mine .
Without full sight of the latest licence applications to the Coal Authority from the developer, – the public and the Planning Inquiry cannot make independent judgements on the severity of the likely emissions. Emissions include CO2, Methane and Radioactive Emissions from Sellafield’s nuclear wastes which are now largely sitting in the seabed but would be resuspended with “likely subsidence” of the Sellafield Mud Patch.
Sellafield’s infrastructure just five miles away is at serious risk from this coal mine notwithstanding the nonchalance of the Office for Nuclear Regulation. On the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Silo for example has unknown leaks from unknown cracks in the concrete containment which is partly beneath ground. Sellafield have last month asked for help in finding and mitigating the leak of 550 gallons per day of radioactive liquor into groundwater beneath the site from unknown cracks. Fracking was halted because of earthquake risk and yet the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have stated that coal mining induced earthquakes are of a magnitude greater than fracking : “Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of smaller magnitude than the UK’s largest natural seismic events and those induced by coal mining”.
Without full disclosure of the latest licence applications the forthcoming coal mine planning inquiry is, we believe, invalid and an entirely profligate use of public money, especially as Cumbria County Council has now withdrawn its planning approval for the mine.
Withdrawal of planning approval for the coal mine from the local planning authority, Cumbria County Council should be honoured by the Coal Authority and BEIS.
In all conscience the Coal Authority and BEIS should act to ensure that the coal mine plan is scrapped with immediate effect. This would avoid the profligate expense of a worse than useless Public Inquiry whose findings (in any event) would be null and void given the lack of social and legal licence from the Local Planning Authority and the non-disclosure of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications.
We are asking the Coal Authority one more time for sight of West Cumbria Mining’s latest licence applications before escalating this as a formal complaint to the Information Commissioner.
Marianne Birkby on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
Lakes Against Nuclear Dump
Copied to BEIS, Tim Farron MP, Planning Inspectorate
Negligible Risk of Induced Seismicity near Sellafield is too much. “An interactive workshop on Tuesday, May 25 2021…Sellafield are seeking ideas, innovations and technologies capable of game changing solutions to prevent or minimise leaks from Magnox Swarf Silo Storage. Current leak rates are around 1.5 – 2.5 m3/d and Sellafield want to reduce these as much as possible.The concrete silos, built in three stages between 1962-1982, contain magnesium cladding, or swarf, stripped from Magnox fuel prior to reprocessing. The swarf is stored underwater in the silos but, over time, the stored contents corrode, releasing heat and hydrogen…”
Request for Internal Review under the Freedom of Information Act 2000
I write in connection with your request for an Internal Review, which was received by The Coal Authority on 9 April 2021.
An independent review has now taken place with regard to your original Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) request and response, our reference FOI 71-2020. The review has considered the reasons stated in your appeal and the legislative compliance under the Act.
My findings are as follows:
Your Freedom of Information Act request was received on 4 March 2021 and following our extension of the deadline to consider a public interest test we responded to you on 7 April 2021, complying with the legislative response requirements.
I have considered your arguments in the application of exemptions Section 43(2) Commercial Interests and Section 44(1)(a) Prohibition on disclosure relying upon Section 59(1)(a)(b) of the Coal Industry Act 1994.
The Coal Authority is still determining the two applications and following a request to the Operator as to whether they would assist in any disclosure requirements the Operator does not give permission to have their applications disclosed.
I am in agreement with the application of exemption Section 43(2) for the reasons set out in the public interest test. The commercial interests of the operator must also be considered.
In conclusion, I uphold the decision of the response dated 7 April 2021 not to disclose the West Cumbria Mining Ltd applications for a variation to existing Conditional Licences UND/0177/N and UND/0184/N.
Request for disclosure under Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR)
On 13 April 2021, the Coal Authority received your request that the West Cumbria Mining Ltd applications’ for a variation to existing Conditional Licences UND/0177/N and UND/0184/N be considered for disclosure under Environmental Information Regulations 2004 (EIR).
The Coal Authority has considered whether the public interest favours disclosure or whether it favours maintenance of the relevant exception. When considering this exception the Coal Authority has considered the presumption in favour of disclosure in accordance with Regulation 12(2) of the EIR. The Coal Authority has taken into account the following public interests arguments when considering your request:
The interest in the Authority being transparent and accountable to the public, and the public being able to better participate in environmental decision-making. The information that is contained in the application forms constitutes technical or commercial information. That information requires consideration by the Authority as the expert regulator in the context of its duties within the Coal Industry Act 1994 and these are not matters upon which the public are required to be consulted. In this context the public interest is satisfied by the Coal Authority disclosing the fact that an application for coal mining operations exists and is available on the Coal Authority’s website.
The interest in the public understanding how coal resources are exploited by private entities in England and Wales. However, the same point applies as above with regard to how this interest is met.
The Coal Authority also considers the following arguments to apply in favour of maintaining this exception:
The exception protects confidentiality provided by law. By way of Section 59 of the Coal Industry Act 1994 this specifically provides for the confidentiality of information provided by commercial operators and the Authority also consider that the common law duty of confidence is engaged in these circumstances. There is a strong public interest in ensuring that such confidentiality is maintained.
If the information within these applications were to be made public then applicants may be less inclined to voluntarily provide information within the application forms, which could negatively impact the application process. In determining applications the Coal Authority is required to undertake important considerations in relation to potential subsidence, health
and safety, and ensuring that the operator applicant is able to finance the proper carrying on of the mining operations and discharge any liabilities related to those operations. All of these matters could impact upon the public and it is of primary importance that the Coal Authority is able to effectively undertake its role as expert regulator. The Coal Authority needs to be able to do this in an environment that is considered to be a “safe space” by the Applicant where they are prepared to be fully transparent with the Coal Authority as regulator and not inhibited in the information they provide.
The same public interest arguments in favour of disclosure apply as in relation to Regulation 12(5)(d) above. The Authority also considers the following to apply:
There are a number of primary issues that require consideration in determining a licence application including ensuring that the Coal Authority is satisfied that there are sufficient finances for the project, including sufficient finances to provide appropriate security to address potential issues such as subsidence. This requires the disclosure of sensitive financial information, as well as information gathered by the applicant in relation to the proposed site and which is not otherwise available to their competitors. If this information is made publicly available then the applicant may be less inclined to be transparent with the Coal Authority in relation to such matters, which could negatively impact upon the considerations to be undertaken by the Coal Authority. The Coal Authority therefore considers there to be a legitimate economic interest of operators that there is a public interest in maintaining.
In light of the above, the Coal Authority considers that the public interest weighs in favour of maintaining this exception.
The Coal Authority refuses your request under Regulation 14(3)(a) in relation to the application of the first exception Regulation 12(5)(d).