The Ecologist Exposes the Cumbrian Coal Mine Plan

Excellent article in the Ecologist by Sam Moisha…

An Extract Below.  Full Article can be read here

A new deep coal mine deep under the sea? Next to Sellafield? Really?

Sam Moisha

| 5th February 2018

Architect's drawing of proposed new mine

An architect’s drawing of the proposed new Woodhouse Colliery deep mine at the former Marchon Industrial site near Woodhouse.

West Cumbria Mining
The first deep coal mine in Britain for thirty years is being proposed at Whitehaven, with the promise of new jobs in an old mining community. But the site is within five miles of Sellafield. Activists are concerned both about the definite contribution to climate change, as well as the potential threat of a nuclear accident. SAM MOISHA sets out their concerns

The potential for earth tremors and quakes resulting from mining is well known.  The potential for man-made tremors at the Sellafield site is too awful to contemplate.

The first deep coal mine in Britain for 30 years is being proposed in a planning application due to be heard in Kendal on 7 March 2018.  Woodhouse Colliery is proposed for Whitehaven, which is a former mining community with a lot of identity and even nostalgia caught up in the industry. It is also an area with a desperate shortage of jobs.

Mark Kirkbride and West Cumbria Mining [WCM] have applied for consent to build a ‘state of the art’ mine extending under the Irish Sea to extract coking coal for export to the steel industry.  The coal would be taken by train to Redcar for shipping.

Disused anhydrite mine drift tunnels would be reopened to access the coal and the surface buildings would be on a disused ex industrial site known as the Chemical Factory. The old Marchon Chemical works  produced products from Anhydrite. These included detergents and sulphuric acid.

Employment prospects

WCM put the output of coal at 3.2 million tonnes per annum.  The coal is planned mostly for export to the steel making industry in Europe where the resulting carbon emissions will run directly counter to the Paris agreement on climate change. 

The digging up and burning of such quantities of fossil fuel is clearly completely out of kilter with both UK and international policy.

Cumbria has seen it’s share of extreme climate events in recent years, in particular the severe flooding of Storm Desmond. Allowing Woodhouse Colliery to go ahead would be ensuring that Cumbrian coal plays a part in increased floods, droughts, mudslides, crop failures, famine and wildfires at an international level.

The claim by WCM that they are reducing emissions by transporting the coal by train instead of road is so irrelevant as to be laughable.

WCM has widely publicised that the mine would bring 518 new jobs to Cumbria including 50 apprenticeships. Local people have been invited to ‘pre-register’ for employment prospects. It is completely understandable that some local residents support the proposed mine. Though indeed, many do not. Jobs are in very short supply in West Cumbria.

Radioactive waste

There is in Whitehaven a statue of coal miners. The inscription at the miners’ feet says “End of an Era”. In 2018 with an urgent need to cut carbon, with the UK as signatory to the Paris Agreement and bound by the national framework of the Climate Change Act committing  to an 80 percent reduction in emissions by 2050 – this plan must be a total non-starter.

It seems a cruel and ironic hoax on the people of West Cumbria who have been ruthlessly sold the nuclear golden goose  to hold out this carrot of a return to coal mining.

And it gets worse…the undersea mine would be in an area of heavily faulted geology within 5 miles of Sellafield. Sellafield is the most dangerous place in Europe, storing radioactive spent fuel rods in crumbling pools of water.

More of the Article can be read here

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TAKE ACTION – NEW Leaflet to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Poster small

Dear Friends,

Although this is a very big deal you would not think so from reading and listening to the mainstream media. There has been virtually no reporting in the local press and none at all in the national press on all the reasons why so many groups and organisations are opposed to the plan for the first deep coal mine in 30 years.

We are a small group with limited funds (our own pockets) and limited public outreach.  So the more that people and other groups get involved in spreading the message and shouting out about this plan and about just how mad, bad and dangerous it is, the more chance we have of stopping it in its tracks.

We have produced a new leaflet which needs distributing, we don’t have much time to spread the word before the planning meeting on March 7th 2018.    If you would like to get involved in sharing the leaflet with your family, friends and neighbours,  please contact us at coal@mariannebirkby.plus.com.

The text of the leaflet is below….

KEEP CUMBRIAN COAL IN THE HOLE (St Bees is way too near Sellafield!)

A Busy Persons Guide to Opposing the first deep Coal Mine in 30 years

TAKE ACTION

TAKE ACTION

  • If you have a minute – please share it to your friends

TAKE ACTION

  • If you have 15 minutes please write a brief letter to Cumbria County Council. Objections include Ground Water Damage, Earthquake Risk Near Sellafield Ponds of High Level Nuclear Wastes, CO2 and Methane emissions, Impacts on Marine wildlife, Subsidence of the Irish Sea Bed etc. Please Quote the planning application Reference 4/17/9007. Cumbria County Council will decide this application on 7th March, 10am in Kendal. The public consultation ends on Feb 19th. Letters can be sent to Mrs Rachel Brophy, Cumbria County Council Development Control Team County Offices, Busher Walk, Kendal, Cumbria LA9 4RQ For the attention of Mrs R Brophy (Planning Officer) 01539 713 413 or email to developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk The earlier the submissions are sent the better chance they have of being included in the committee report.

TAKE ACTION

  • To register to speak for up to 5 minutes at the 7th March Planning meeting it is necessary to register as soon as possible with a written note of the points you wish to make. To register please contact – Jackie Currie, Senior Democratic Services Officer, Legal & Democratic Services, Cumbria County Council, Cumbria House, Botchergate, Carlisle, Cumbria CA1 1RD Tel: 01228 221030 Email currie@cumbria.gov.uk

TAKE ACTION

If you can come to a demo at the Council 9am on 7th March – be good to see you! More info at https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/

Leaflet KEEP CUMBRIAN COAL IN THE HOLE.jpg

Even The Coal Authority Oppose Coal Mine Plan – Why Don’t We Know About It?

220px-Cheval_de_Troie_d'après_le_Virgile_du_Vatican

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Even The Coal Authority oppose the coal mine planned under the Irish Sea. It is a mystery why none of this is reported in the press.  Those opposing the coal mine include:  RSPB, Natural England, National Trust, The Environment Agency, Colourful Coast Partnership, Coal Action Network, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and many more.   So why do the local and national press insist on parroting West Cumbria Mining’s own press releases?

There is a theory that this coal mine plan is a Trojan Horse to ensure deep mining infrastructure is embedded into Cumbria.  This theory is borne out by several facts:

  • The money financing West Cumbria Mining is from China, a country looking to make a killing (literally) from building new nuclear reactors here in the UK.  New reactors require a plan for the waste, what shady deals have been done in the corridors of power?
  • George Monbiot ‘the UKs leading environmentalist’ usually so vocal in his opposition to “the truly lethal coal industry”  has said nothing about this plan for the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.  People may remember that George  is very keen on new nuclear and he could not find it in himself to congratulate  Cumbria County Council for very sensibly saying no to the deep geological nuclear dump plan in 2013.
  • There are so many groups opposing this coal mine plan for very good reasons but we are not being told this in the press.   Meanwhile the mega buck inducements are being ratcheted up.  Depressed areas of West Cumbria are being groomed to expect apprenticeships, employment and £millions of community benefits.  The infrastructure and workforce is being put into place for a deep geological dump courtesy of this coal mine plan.  The Operations Director, Steve Reece of West Cumbria Mining’s previous job was with the government on behalf of the nuclear industry.  He was tasked with ensuring the infrastructure and workforce was in place for geological disposal of nuclear wastes.
  • West Cumbria Mining talk of their “current focus” on coal mining suggesting that the focus may shift elsewhere once the plan is firmly embedded in hearts, minds and wallets.

There are many reasons to oppose this coal mine and maybe the geological nuclear dump Trojan Horse theory is a conspiracy theory too far?  However – the lack of press coverage on the damage that deep mining would do under this area of West Cumbria suggests that the plan is being given a free ride.  A free ride for as long as possible to allow the idea of deep mining to have fertile ground when the geological nuclear dump rears its head again?  And it will rear its head again unless geological disposal of nuclear wastes is given the thumbs down, as has happened in Scotland.

Here is The Coal Authority’s Opposition to the coal mine plan…

For the Attention of: Mrs Rachel Brophy – Case Officer Cumbria County Council

[By Email: developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk]

4 July 2017

Dear Mrs Brophy

PLANNING APPLICATION: 4/17/9007

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

Thank you for your consultation email of 7 June 2017 seeking the views of The Coal Authority on the above planning application.

The Coal Authority is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy. As a statutory consultee, The Coal Authority has a duty to respond to planning applications and development plans in order to protect the public and the environment in mining areas.

The Coal Authority Response: Substantive Concern

I have reviewed the proposals and confirm that the application site falls within the defined Development High Risk Area; therefore within the application site and surrounding area there are coal mining features and hazards which need to be considered in relation to the determination of this planning application.

1

Protecting the public and the environment in mining areas

The majority of the proposed built development is located clear of the Development High Risk Area, however, certain aspects of the proposal do encroach in the High Risk Area:

  •   The Conveyor Intermediate Access Station would be located within the zone of

    influence of recorded mine entry (shaft) 297514-001;

  •   The underground coal conveyor passes through a thick outcropping coal seam which

    may have been subject to historic unrecorded working; and

  •   Construction Access B (including road extension) and temporary laydown on the

    former Main Band Colliery site would be located within the zones of influence of mine entries (shafts) 298514-019 and 298514-020

    The Coal Authority notes that Chapter 13 of the Environmental Statement considers ground conditions and contamination matters, however, we do not consider that the contents of the chapter adequately address the potential risks posed by coal mining legacy to those specific elements of the scheme located within the Development High Risk Area as outlined above.

    The Coal Authority takes this opportunity to advise the applicant that any form of development over or within the influencing distance of a mine entry can be dangerous and raises significant safety and engineering risks and exposes all parties to potential financial liabilities. The Coal Authority has adopted a policy where, as a general precautionary principle, the building over or within the influencing distance of a mine entry should wherever possible be avoided. Our adopted policy on this matter can be found at: http://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-on-or-within-the-influencing-distance-of- mine-entries

    It is a requirement of the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraphs 120-121, that the applicant demonstrates to the satisfaction of the LPA that the application site is safe, stable and suitable for development. In addition, the National Planning Practice Guidance in section 45 makes it clear that planning applications in the defined Development High Risk Area must be accompanied by a Coal Mining Risk Assessment.

The Coal Authority Recommendation to the LPA

In accordance with the agreed risk-based approach to development management in Development High Risk Areas, the applicant should be informed that they need to submit a Coal Mining Risk Assessment Report as part of this application which relates to those parts of the development proposal located within the Development High Risk Area.

Without such an assessment of any risks to the development proposal posed by past coal mining activity, based on up-to-date coal mining information, the Coal Authority does not consider that the LPA has sufficient information to determine this planning application and therefore objects to this proposal.

If the applicant ultimately fails to demonstrate to the LPA that the application site is safe and stable to accommodate the proposed development then the LPA may refuse planning permission, in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraphs 120- 121.

2

Protecting the public and the environment in mining areas

The Coal Authority would be very pleased to receive for further consultation and comment any subsequent Coal Mining Risk Assessment Report which is submitted in support of this planning application.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you would like to discuss this matter further. Yours sincerely

James Smith BSc. (Hons), Dip.URP, MRTPI Planning Liaison Manager

General Information for the Applicant

Under the Coal Industry Act 1994 any intrusive activities, including initial site investigation boreholes, and/or any subsequent treatment of coal mine workings/coal mine entries for ground stability purposes require the prior written permission of The Coal Authority, since such activities can have serious public health and safety implications. Failure to obtain permission will result in trespass, with the potential for court action. In the event that you are proposing to undertake such work in the Forest of Dean local authority area our permission may not be required; it is recommended that you check with us prior to commencing any works. Application forms for Coal Authority permission and further guidance can be obtained from The Coal Authority’s website at: http://www.gov.uk/get-a-permit-to-deal-with-a-coal-mine-on-your-property

Disclaimer

The above consultation response is provided by The Coal Authority as a Statutory Consultee and is based upon the latest available data on the date of the response, and electronic consultation records held by The Coal Authority since 1 April 2013. The comments made are also based upon only the information provided to The Coal Authority by the Local Planning Authority and/or has been published on the Council’s website for consultation purposes in relation to this specific planning application. The views and conclusions contained in this response may be subject to review and amendment by The Coal Authority if additional or new data/information (such as a revised Coal Mining Risk Assessment) is provided by the Local Planning Authority or the Applicant for consultation purposes.

In formulating this response The Coal Authority has taken full account of the professional conclusions reached by the competent person who has prepared the Coal Mining Risk Assessment or other similar report. In the event that any future claim for liability arises in relation to this development The Coal Authority will take full account of the views, conclusions and mitigation previously expressed by the professional advisers for this development in relation to ground conditions and the acceptability of development.

3

Protecting the public and the environment in mining areas

 

 

Divest from Coal (?) Letter to the Guardian – Unpublished

Another unpublished letter to the national press on the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years.  There is something fishy going on with this coal mine plan.  There has been nowt in the national media (and virtually nowt in the local media) on what a bad idea it is.

DIVEST FROM COAL? – TELL THAT TO THE BLACK GUILLEMOTS

Dear Editor
The report that global insurance firms are divesting from fossil fuels has not reached us here  in the desolate north (“Growing number of global insurance firms divesting from fossil fuels” Jonathon Watts 15.11.17) .Whats worst than the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years?  A deep coal mine just five miles from the worlds most dangerous nuclear waste dump, Sellafield!  OK what could go wrong? Quite a lot.  Sellafield lies adjacent to the Lake District Boundary Fault and deep coal mining is known to induce seismic activity.  Which insurance company underwrites Sellafield?  Joe Public plc.
The new undersea coal mine would be closer to Sellafield than ever before.  It would produce 750 million tonnes of CO2.  It would be under and adjacent to the magnificent St Bees coastline, the only place in England where the black guillemot nests.  There are a lot of reasons to be very concerned indeed about this truly lethal plan. The coal mine will be decided upon by Cumbria County Council on January 24th 2018.  Under 70 days to stop the first new coal mine in the UK in 30 years.
yours sincerely
Marianne Birkby
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
address

Thanks to Scisco Media for Publishing Article on China Connection to Cumbria Coal.

There is almost universal silence on this coal mine plan from the national media apart from the occasionally parroted press release from the developers.  So BIG THANKS to Scisco Media for publishing the following!
Cumbrian Coal Mine

Follow the Cumbrian Coal Mine money….all the way to China

Back in 2015 the Champagne glasses were clinking in The Four Seasons, a Chinese restaurant in Whitehaven, Cumbria.  West Cumbria Mining was “happily toasting the recent visit to the UK of Chinese premier Xi Jinping.” As well they might. Over £14m of funding for the development has come from EMR Capital Resources Fund, an Australian-managed private equity fund. Managed by Owen Hegarty and Jason Chang, pride of place in the head office is a photo of “an Australian politician at the signing of an agreement between EMR and a bank in China”. 

Unfathomable

Why China, through EMR Capital, would want to put money into a coal mine in the UK is unfathomable. In 2015, when West Cumbria Mining were toasting the visit of Xi Jinping, the Chinese people were protesting against a coal-fired plant at Heyuan “around 10,000 Chinese residents of Heyuan in north-eastern Guangdong took to the streets on Sunday (12 April) to protest against (the expansion of ) a coal-fired power plant in the region.” This is because the air and water in the region was already heavily polluted. The incidences of  inhuman brutality by the Chinese regime to protestors is well documented but rarely mentioned in the new era of globalisation at any cost.

As well as protesting against new coal, existing mining operations are withholding wages for their miners as there is overcapacity in the Chinese market and in a bid to solve this mines have been closed down. Thousands of coal miners have been on the streets protesting about unpaid wages

So why on earth would China want to invest in coal in the UK? There is the strategic importance of coal mining under the Irish Seat at St Bees: it is only 8km from Sellafield but that is paranoid thinking.  Then there is the prestigious St Bees school, the oldest (?) in the UK founded in 1583 which unaccountably closed in 2015 (when West Cumbria Mining were chinking their Champagne glasses). Guess what happened next? St Bees school has been “saved” by Shenzhen International, a mega Chinese organisation which seems to have fingers in all sorts of pies.

It is madness and the Chinese people are absolutely right to be protesting on the streets in their tens of thousands about new coal mines opening up in their country.

So what’s happening in Cumbria?

Well, there is a statue in Whitehaven – a poignant memorial to coal miners who lost their lives. “End of an Era”, it’s called. Only apparently it isn’t.

Cumbrian Coal Mine

Now there is the plan by West Cumbria Mining (backed by EMR Capital) to expand the dangerous Whitehaven mines with undersea coal mining. There has been lots of greenwashing heaped on the plan by West Cumbria Mining to reopen Whitehaven coal mine, the most gaseous, dangerous pit in the Kingdom.  In 1815, Sir Humphrey Davy’s invention of the miner’s safety lamp was first tested in Whitehaven Coking Coal Mine because of its reputation for “firedamp” (methane) and fatal explosions.

That was in the pre-atomic age. Now in the same area, just eight kilometres away, we have the most dangerous nuclear site in the world: Sellafield. Windscale – later renamed Sellafield is too close to the proposed site.

What people are saying

“We are particularly concerned in regard to the potential impact upon the wider marine and coastal environment of the discharge of water into the sea, which has been pumped from the flooded anhydrite mine.” National Trust

“The application site is in proximity (Solway Firth 1.5km) to a European designated site (also commonly referred to as Natura 2000 sites), and therefore has the potential to affect its interest features.” Natural England

“The impact of any level of subsidence upon the terrestrial or marine heritage assets and designated sites and landscapes could be significant and permanent, therefore having a detrimental impact ..The history of contamination of watercourses in the areas raises concerns for some local residents in relation to the impact of the development on the complex hydrology of the area.” Colourful Coast Partnership

“Our position is to object to the proposed development on the grounds of the adverse impact on groundwater, surface water and biodiversity.” Environment Agency

“It is clear that this is a very large mine, with a very long life span…of 20-50 years and a peak of 2.8 million tonnes a year. Assuming a 40-year life (following construction), and an average of 2 million tonnes a year, that is a total production of 80 million tonnes, which will emit around 175 million tonnes of carbon dioxide. The level of emissions and proposed life-time of the mine is of major concern….We would also query whether or not there has been robust enough analysis of the potential for seismicity (and subsidence) relating to well-known nuclear facilities in the wider area, including Sellafield and proposed new facility at Moorside? What potential is there for seismicity to effect these and other facilities (including the low level waste repository at Drigg) and the possible high level waste radioactive waste facility which has been proposed in West Cumbria for some time.” Friends of the Earth

“The application should be rejected because it is not in the national interest. From reviewing the documents submitted by West Cumbria Mining it is clear that the intention is to export the coal to Europe and Asia…The application to mine is too close to the Sellafield nuclear site and the proposal for another nuclear power station at Moorside. Underground mining can have a significant impact on the surrounding areas, recently a coking coal mine in Russia triggered an earthquake.” Coal Action Network

Cumbrian Coal Mine

Test Drilling by West Cumbria Mining off St Bees

 

Cumbrian Coal Mine

Fulmar – photo by Dorothy Bennett

Just some of the “Star Species” found in this Heritage Coast and Marine Conservation Zone are listed by the RSPB as: Fulmar, Guillemot, Herring Gull, Kittiwake, Razorbill and so many more that would be impacted on by the plan for a new coal mine with possible subsidence of the Irish Sea bed impacting on food sources such as sandeels (and not to mention disturbing decades of Sellafield discharges which have settled there).

There are so many reasons to oppose this coal mine plan. That is why we are campaigning hard to stop the plan.

Take action

Specialist law firm, Leigh Day have agreed to help which is amazing.  So we are raising funds for the cost for counsel to provide a written Opinion on Potential Grounds for Judicial Review.  This is to ensure that we will still have a chance of stopping the coal mine plan should Cumbria County Council ignore the advice of Natural England, the National Trust, Coal Action Network, the Environment Agency, Colourful Coast Partnership, Friends of the Earth and others and rubberstamp the plan.

People can get involved in many ways. You can write to the leader of Cumbria County Council and let him know you oppose the plan by West Cumbria Mining for the new Woodhouse Colliery (planning application number 4/17/9007).

Cumbria County Council is scheduled to be making a decision on the 24 of January, 2018.  The decision will be taken by the Development Control Committee.  Their contact details are here . The more letters they get the better. If you feel you can speak in opposition to the plan on the 24 of January then please do, whether as an individual or as a member of a group.  The meeting is open to public participation and you can register to speak by contacting Cumbria County Council.

We need to stop this diabolic plan for a new coal mine dangerously near Sellafield, if you can help in any way either by donation or by action then the better chance we have.

If you can help, you will be making history in the battle to stop the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.  All donations no matter how small will be used directly to challenge West Cumbria Mining’s diabolic plan. Pledges can be made here

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ORIGINAL ARTICLE CAN BE READ HERE

Walk Tomorrow from Whitehaven to St Bees to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole!

Sellafield and WCM

Tomorrow 28th Oct at 10.30am Campaigners to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole will be gathering outside the Beacon Museum, Whitehaven to walk the challenging 7 miles to St Bees along the Colourful Coast.

“from the St Bees cliffs,  the only place in England where black guillemots nest, you can see the West Cumbria Mining’s test drilling rig, turn to the left and there is Sellafield.  This is a bonkers plan, the only thing worse than opening up a new coal mine, is opening up a new coal mine in close proximity to Sellafield”  Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

Campaigners invite others to join them tomorrow – either to stand with banners at the start of the walk to show resistance to West Cumbria Mining’s plan or if people can, please do join us for the whole walk.

https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2017/10/14/a-walk-from-whitehaven-to-st-bees-to-keep-cumbrian-coal-in-the-hole/

Please join us on the 28th October as we Walk to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.  This is a challenging walk  and weather dependent.  (If the weather is really inclement we will still meet at the Beacon for our photo opportunity!)

Whitehaven coastal walk to St Bees

This is a dramatic cliff-top walk.  We will be meeting at the Beacon Museum (now run by Sellafield) on Whitehaven’s historic 17th-century harbour.  The walk takes in the old Saltom Pit, the Haig Pit and the beautiful Fleswick Bay.

The cliffs of St Bees provide the only nesting site in England for the black guillemot. Although rarely seen, puffins are also believed to nest here.  This area was once teeming with wildlife.  In 2017 that wildlife is now much rarer, with many species being on the red list..what remains is so very important to protect ( not to mention our  fresh water, hydrology would be impacted upon, and health)

Trail: Walking

Grade: Hard  (muddy in parts and some parts near the cliff edge…Carefully, Slowly does it!)

Distance: 7 miles (11km)

Time: 4 hours

We will be meeting at 10.30 am  at the Beacon – we will leave no later than 11am after photos with our banners (foldable ones to put in rucksacks with picnic!)  to ensure we have plenty of time for the walk.  

Look forward to seeing you there

Coking Coal Mine Plans to EXPORT 80% of coal produced

The following article appeared in the Financial Times on the 19th June.  The article aims to justify the Cumbrian coal mine by the statement that there is a “Global Demand” for Coking Coal. This is however  unsupported by the fact of an “overcapacity” of coking coal in China (and elsewhere) where coking mines are being closed..market prices are set artificially high to offset “overcapacity.”

 

Global Demand For Coking Coal Set To Revive UK Coal Mining

  • Date: 19/06/17
  • Financial Times

Pit to employ more than 500 and export about 80% of its output

 

Two years after Britain’s last deep coal mine closed, a £200m project in Cumbria wants to revive the industry.

West Cumbria Mining (WCM) plans to extract high value metallurgical — or coking — coal used for steelmaking rather than the cheaper version used in power stations.

It will use existing tunnels at a disused drift mine to access undersea resources off the coast of St Bees Head, just south of Whitehaven. Mark Kirkbride, chief executive, said the mine could open by the end of 2019.

“Metallurgical coal was the best performing commodity of 2016,” said Mr Kirkbride. “There is no source of it in Europe.” Poland produces some lower grade coking coal. Prices leapt to $300 a tonne but have since slipped back as China ramps up production.

He is budgeting for $120 a tonne initially and $140 over the long term. Production costs would be $57 a tonne.

The mine has said it will employ more than 500 people and export around 80 per cent of its output. Helen Davies, a spokeswoman, said that it would reduce the area’s dependence on Sellafield, the nuclear reprocessing plant for jobs.

“We have had 95 per cent support from the local community in responses to our consultations. Some 1,600 people have registered an interest in jobs. They include over 80 with experience underground. They really want to teach a new generation,” she said.