As Cumbria County Council Withdraw Their Support for the Coal Mine, We Expose the Public Inquiry as a “Farce”

Theatre Farce (Petrov-Vodkin)

We have called upon Tim Farron MP to ask that Government scrap the farcical Public Inquiry and puts an immediate Block on the Secretive WCM Coal Authority Licences.

Dear Tim,

As the only MP in the County strongly opposing the coal mine you will no doubt share Radiation Free Lakeland’s delight that the County Council has withdrawn its support for the mine and will not now provide any witnesses or evidence to the public inquiry (scheduled for September). 

As nuclear safety campaigners we have long held the belief that we had far more likelihood of persuading the Council to overturn their approval than government who have such vested interests in West Cumbria Mining’s expertise with regards the Critical National Infrastructure project of deep ‘disposal’ of heat generating nuclear wastes.

We now know the public inquiry is a farce.  A farce because the County Council’s decision to approve the mine no longer exists.  A farce because government have appointed the existing coal mine CEO and former Head of Operations to the Delivery of Geological Disposal of Heat Generating Nuclear Wastes with the Irish Sea area adjacent to the coal mine being in the frame. A farce because the government could stop its virtue signalling and actually scrap the coal mine tomorrow by blocking the developer’s application for new Coal Authority licences.  New secretive licences which the public are being refused sight of and have no idea what they contain.

It is now more clear than ever that the enormous expense of a public inquiry could be spared.  The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Kwasi Kwarteng MP could put his ‘coal mine should be blocked’ words into action and put the kaibosh on renewal of the developer’s licence to drill.   The letter below asking for an immediate block on the licence to drill has been signed by organisations as diverse as the  Ethical Consumer Research Association, CND and the Sea Horse Trust.  Leading academics have also signed along with Whitehaven locals who are concerned amongst other things about the enormous ground water withdrawal that this mine would abstract from a named geological fault.  Our letter recieved no media attention (in contrast to blanket coverage of the letter from  organisations focussing narrowly on climate), this disparity is we believe because our letter “outs” the Government’s vested interests in West Cumbria Mining and exposes the scandalous recklessness and cronyism regarding nuclear safety.   Asking the public to pay for an expensive inquiry into a coal mine whose CEO is employed by Government as a nuclear waste advisor, a coal mine which is guaranteed to flout climate and nuclear safety and would end up being a stranded asset (ready to morph into an entirely different asset?)  at a time of austerity is scandalous.  The mine could be stopped today.

The public inquiry is a farce and should be halted with the immediate blocking of Coal Authority licences for West Cumbria Mining.  If this does not happen Government should come clean on its vested nuclear waste interests regarding West Cumbria Mining’s expertise.

Correspondence below with BEIS indicates deliberate obfuscation by Government over their role in protecting WCM interests at the expense of any social licence for the development or public scrutiny.
Thank you for your continued opposition to the coal mine which is far more dangerous than the sum of its parts.

We would like to ask that Government now scraps the farcical Public Inquiry and puts an immediate Block on the Secret WCM Coal Authority Licences. Any help you can give us in achieving this “Big Ask” would be so very much appreciated.

Yours Sincerely

Marianne Birkby
on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland



To the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng Secretary of State for BEIS


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

Yours sincerely,

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

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

Rob Harrison, Ethical Consumer Research Association.


BEIS Ministerial Responsibility for the Coal Authority

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

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

Coal Authority Licences

6th Climate Budget     note the Climate Change Committee is appointed by BEIS 

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in West Cumbria

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in Bangladesh

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

Haig Colliery and Mining MuseumReturn of final meeting in a creditors’ voluntary winding up

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

24 Nov 2020Registration of charge 071433980002, the document can be found here

The steel industry will soon have little use for Cumbrian coal

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

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

note: the Coal Authority later confirmed there would be no public consultation or scrutiny over the issuing of new licences to drill for West Cumbria Mining.  The public are not being allowed sight of the new licence appliations from West Cumbria Mining

WCM Plan to Bite the Hand that Feeds and Start Legal Action Against Cumbria County Council

Whitehaven Mermaid : ‘Say No to Coal Mine” West Cumbria Mining continue to claim there is 90% support for the mine in the face of growing concerns.

Poor beleaguered Cumbria County Council – first we (Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole) issue legal proceedings against them for giving the green light to the faux “environmentally friendly” “carbon neutral” coal mine and now West Cumbria Mining plan to start legal action against the council because the council quite rightly once again wants to review the decision it made to approve the coal mine plan. This new review of the plan follows the latest threat of legal action, (this time by South Lakes Action on Climate Change who are looking to challenge Secretary of State Robert Jenrick’s decision not to call the Council’s approval in for a public inquiry). West Cumbria Mining have issued a rather huffy statement which repeats all the old myths including that 90% of Cumbrians want this coal mine and that it would be a financial boon to Cumbria. Don’t make me laugh! West Cumbria Mining have already stole the Haig Mining Museum and lands from the Cumbrian public for less than the price of a bottle of pop.

From West Cumbria Mining’s statement “As a result of the actions taken by Cumbria CC, WCM concluded that the only course of action was to explore legal actions to secure the future of the project. Subsequently, WCM has instructed Hogan Lovells, a highly recognised and reputable international law firm, to take legal action on concerns that CCCs decision making process is robust and in accordance with the established framework. As the next step in this process, we have today (5th March 2021) lodged formal proceedings in respect of Cumbria CC’s decision to refer the matter back once again to the Committee.”

West Cumbria Mining are ruthless operators. If this mine does goes ahead below the decades of Sellafield’s nuclear waste discharges and just five miles from the most dangerous nuclear site in the world the radiation damage would be way beyond any remediation. It is sickening that this mine has the backing of government with key appointments of personnel including WCM’s CEO being made to the government’s ‘Delivery of a Deep Geological Disposal Facility” . The area in the frame is the Irish Sea adjacent to the mine. This should send shivers down the spine of every County Councillor – Councillors need to find their spines now more than ever and refuse permission for this mine to open. If the climate arguments are overwhelming (which they are) the nuclear impacts are even more so. It would take just 2-4 years for the plutonium wastes now in the silts of the Irish Sea, having been remobilised by the coal mine’s “expected subsidence” to reach the Arctic. Rather less time to reach our shores and that of our neighbours in the Isle of Man, Ireland and Scotland.

Ball is Kicked Back to Cumbria County Council – WRITE and Tell Them to Scrap the Coal Mine

“Coal Chokes Nukes Annihilate”

Thank you to everyone who is donating and campaigning to Help Stop the Cumbrian coal Mine.  

The ball has been kicked back to Cumbria County Council. We now need to tell the Council again that they should scrap the coal mine plan and why!

Here is an Excellent Letter to Cumbria County Council’s Development Control & Regulation Committee.   Please do use this letter below from David Penney as inspiration for your own letters – if you have written before please do write again.  If you are a member or executive of one of the 80 organisations who wrote to Boris Johnson please ask these NGOs to make sure they do not deceive the public and politicians by ignoring the serious nuclear aspects of this coal mine . If you are a member of any of these NGOs eg Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Friends of the Lake District, CPRE, Cumbria Action for Sustainability etc please ask them to write urgently to Cumbria County Council, (the ball has been kicked back to the local council) with the FULL truth including the serious intergenerational nuclear impacts.


Address and Email…

     Cumbria County Council                                                

      Development Control and Regulation Committee      

      Support Officer to Committee: Nicola Harrison                    


      COPY: Chair of the Committee, Geoffrey Cook             



Dear Committee Members

Review: Planning Permission for new Coal Mine in West Cumbria

Following the Financial Times Article (9th February 2021) on a proposed deep Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in West Cumbria, it has become clear that there is a connection between the proposed new Coal Mine and Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) as 2 Executives from the Mining Company have been seconded to serve on the Radioactive Waste Management Body (RWM), a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which is responsible for finding a Nuclear Waste Disposal Site. 

One nuclear expert, Dr Paul Dorfman of University College London’s Energy Institute, is quoted as saying in the Financial Times Article that no new Nuclear Reactors should be built until they have solved the problem of the safe storage of existing nuclear waste. It is interesting to note that so far no safe waste storage facility has been developed anywhere in the world. Finland has been trying to develop such a deep nuclear fuel repository site at Onkalo since 2000 and still have not solved safe storage and technical problems. 

This link up between the coal and nuclear industries would seem to indicate that the proposed new coal mine, near to Sellafield, which stores an immense amount of nuclear waste in a hazardous deteriorating condition, and near to the proposed new nuclear reactors, might be accessed at a future date to develop a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for storing Radioactive Waste or on a site closely adjacent to the proposed mine with its potentially dangerous geological faults.

The Government has already announced a Consultation with the 2 relevant District Councils (Copeland and Allerdale) on finding a suitable GDF site in the area despite the presence of geological faults in the area of West Cumbria known collectively as “The Lake District Boundary Fault Zone” (LDBFZ) which lies at the junction between the Carboniferous and younger rocks of West Cumbria and the East Irish Sea Basin.

British Geological Survey of the area in 2010 recorded in their Report: “Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: Initial Geological Unsuitability Screening of West Cumbria” that there were initial risks in using the area for a GDF due to unstable nature of the Geology and recommended further studies to confirm the unsuitability or otherwise of using the area as a GDF. 

In the light of these uncertainties and the risk of a new coal mine disturbing the geology with further faults, fractures, subsidence and leakage, which could have adverse impacts on the site of adjoining Sellafield as well as the proposed sites for new Nuclear Reactors and a GDF, it would be reasonable that the precautionary principle should be invoked and planning permission for a new Coal Mine in West Cumbria should be rescinded along with the other main reason stated in this Submission 

A decision by Cumbria County Council to revoke planning permission for a new coal mine would also imply that any proposal for a GDF in West Cumbria would also be rejected. 

The two West Cumbrian Councils of Copeland and Allerdale seem to support the new coal mine saying that it is needed to supply coal/coke to the steel industry in the UK and would create lots of jobs as well as export surplus coal (CO2) overseas. What they don’t tell us is that steel can be produced in electric arc furnaces or new hydrogen powered carbon free steel foundries being developed by Sweden. 

Supporters also ignore the impact of increasing CO2 emissions from extracting coal which would contravene UK’s commitment to phase out coal, gas and oil fossil fuel production and reduce CO2 emissions under the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which was ratified by Parliament and should be implemented as Government Policy

The Government claims to be a world leader in combating Climate Change. If the opening of a new coal mine is allowed to go ahead it will undermine and invalidate this claim and not set a good example as the UK hosts the UN COP26 Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.

In summary, the main reasons for overturning the Planning Permission for the new Coal Mine in West Cumbria are as follows:

  • It would reaffirm the UK’s commitment to phase out coal mining to reduce CO2 emissions and comply with Policies to combat Climate Change;
  • It would protect the Geology of the West Cumbria and the East Irish Sea Basin Fault Zone from developing further faults;
  • It would stop the risks of potential geological disturbances to nearby existing nuclear sites and any future proposed nuclear installations in the vicinity.

In the light of these criticisms and objections, we hope Cumbria County Council will rescind planning permission for this coal mine as well as reject any future planning application for a GDF in West Cumbria.

Yours truly

David Penney

On behalf of:

Cumbria and Lancashire Area CND, as Coordinator; 

East Lancashire CND, as Chair; ….

COUNCIL TO LOOK AGAIN AT COAL MINE PLAN! Well Done to Everyone who Has Written Asking for the Coal Mine Decision Notice Not to Be Rubber Stamped!

Cumbria County Council are to reconsider the Coal Mine Plan in the light of new information.

Here is our latest letter to Cumbria County Council asking them not to rubber stamp the Decision Notice. Thank You to Everyone who has written asking for more scrutiny. The date for the new Planning Meeting is yet to be confirmed – will keep you posted!

Dear Development Control and Regulation Committee,  Chairman and Secretary

I am writing to you again on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal, a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. On this occasion I write to ask that you do not issue a Decision Notice for the Woodhouse Colliery application until your members have had the opportunity to take into account the significant developments that have occurred since they discussed the revised application. Your Committee decided not to reject the application. I put it this way because you will recall that the Secretary of State placed a holding instruction on the Council which prevented approval being granted. This instruction was removed on the 6 January 2021, as you know, and has not been reapplied despite pressure to do so. The Council is therefore now free to decide the application.

In the intervening time since you decided not to reject the application but were minded to approve it there have been significant events that should be taken into account:

  • Climate Change Committee’s advice on the 6th Carbon Budget
  • Coal Authority lapse of approval for any further onshore and offshore exploration.
  • Sellafield’s lack of taking responsibility for radioactive wastes on the seabed directly above the coal mine
  • New Awareness of Lack of testing by the British Geological Society (hydrology/geology/seismicity)
  • Awareness of Appointments of West Cumbria Mining Executives to public bodies Radioactive Waste Management and Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (two public bodies reporting to Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy)
  • Awareness of Cumbrian Heritage and Land sold for £1

6th Carbon Budget

A Letter has been sent from Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the decision not to call in, or review, the recent decision of Cumbria County Council to grant planning permission to a new Cumbrian coal mine saying that ” The mine is projected to increase UK emissions by 0.4Mt CO2e per year. This is greater than the level of annual emissions we have projected from all open UK coal mines to 2050.” We have written to the Committee asking that they also write to their parent Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy urging BEIS not to issue new Coal Authority Licences for Cumbria. Furthermore, on 9 December 2020,  the CCC recommended CO2 emissions to be cut by 78% between 1990 and 2035, which would in effect bring forward the UK’s previous 80% target by nearly 15 years.

Coal Authority LIcences (CA report to BEIS)

The original Coal Authority licenses were given to Riverside Energy and then West Cumbria Mining over and above the heads of councillors and the public in 2013/14. The original licences for WCM ran for five years with an extension of 3 years. Two of the three have effectively now lapsed and West Cumbria Mining have applied for an extension of those conditional licenses. The lapsed licenses have been temporarily extended pending the Coal Authority’s consideration of the application, but meanwhile any works under those licences is prohibited. Under the original licence many miles of exploratory boreholes were drilled and a methane gas pocket was accidentally hit under the Irish Sea off St Bees necessitating the call out of the Irish Coast Guard.

Lack of Testing/Scrutiny by British Geological Society

The British Geological Society informed us in August 2020 that they have not carried out any hydrological surveys despite much of West Cumbria’s drinking water being drawn from boreholes in South Egremont a few miles away. We are mindful that the BGS gave a clean bill of health to arsenic contaminated water in Bangladesh which resulted in the biggest poisoning event in history and is still ongoing today. Also of concern is the BGS signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Radioactive Waste Management/CoRWM who have appointed at least one former executive and one current executive from West Cumbria Mining to facilitating Geological Disposal. We consider this a conflict of interest.

Responsibility for the Safety of Radioactive Wastes on the Irish Sea Bed

The Chief Executive Officer of WCM has stated that ‘the mine has nothing to do with nuclear waste’ despite the mine being situated beneath decades of Sellafield’s discharges. When it comes to taking responsibility for damage to health and environment coal mining companies are almost as notorious for evasion as the nuclear industry. We have tried repeatedly to find out just who is responsible for the undiluted and largely undispersed radioactive wastes on the Irish Sea bed. These wastes should not be disturbed and resuspended by, as WCM say “expected” subsidence.. Sellafield have refused to admit responsibility for the radioactive wastes on the seabed merely restating their commitment to “monitoring”. We endorse the call by the Nuclear Free Local Authorities for the Decision Notice not to be issued until this issue of responsibility has been addressed. We have put in an official complaint to the Information Commissioner.

The former leader of Cumbria County Council Eddie Martin has this week raised concerns with us about the links between the coal mine developers and the plan for a geological disposal facility in the Irish Sea area adjacent to the coal mine.

He has said: “Clearly the mine is a precursor to a GDF”

This statement is evidence based. Following the County Council’s 31st Oct 2019 meeting at which the first WCM application was approved (pending 106 agreements and Decision Notice), the Chief Executive Officer of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. This appointment was just days after the Council’s approval of WCM’s planning application. As well as the appointment of Mark Kirkbride to CoRWM, the former Head of Operations of WCM Steve Reece is now the Site Selection Manager at Radioactive Waste Management.

We are extremely concerned at the lack of transparency of governance in the appointments of executives of West Cumbria Mining to public bodies facilitating Geological Disposal despite those same executives being party to the most controversial coal mine development in the UK. These public bodies of CoRWM and RWM report directly and indirectly (RWM reports to NDA) to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. The same Department BEIS is also responsible for the public body issuing Coal Authority licenses who first issued WCM (originally Riverside) with a license to drill over the heads of councillors and the public in 2013/14. 

Haig Mining Museum and Land bought for £1

The narrative WCM and its supporters like to present is one of a financial boon to West Cumbria. It is no secret that mine companies use administration or bankruptcy laws to avoid paying out on health damage, remediation or just to consolidate their assets and the CEO of WCM has a track record of this legal but unethical practice. It has not been widely reported that West Cumbria Mining have already fleeced West Cumbria of its publicly owned Heritage Lottery Funded Haig Mining Museum and lands. WCM waited until the planning application was secured before offering £1 for the land and buildings and £39,000 for the historically important and valuable fixtures and fittings in the visitor centre and powerhouse. Following this “purchase” WCM put in place the paperwork to ensure that when the developers go into administration to divest/regroup – the Haig Museum, land and assets would not go to creditors but to unknown persons via EMR Capital. Competition rules apparently did not apply in the WCM “purchase” of West Cumbria Minings valuable heritage and land whose actual value runs into £Millions, now lost forever to EMR Capital’s initial backers. Radiation Free Lakeland whose membership includes some with expertise in Industrial Heritage, Interpretation, Museums and Conservation would have liked the opportunity to have offered far more than £1. That opportunity was not given to anyone as the plan to hand over publicly owned heritage to WCM was as far as we know not made public. Another “buyer” could have kept the heritage and museum intact and publicly available, offering a social hub and adding to the intrinsic value of the Heritage Coast. That the Heritage Lottery Funded Museum and extensive Land has now been sold for far less than a mess of pottage to venture capitalists under the homely guise of a ‘local coal mine’ is an unreported national scandal. (19 Feb 2020 Return of final meeting in a creditors’ voluntary winding up )

We are grateful that Cumbria County Councillors are scrupulous about declaring conflicts of interest. However, the vested interests surrounding this coal mine are raising huge concerns such as that voiced to us by the former leader of Cumbria County Council Eddie Martin. ““Clearly the mine is a precursor to a GDF”

We urge the Development Control and Regulation Committee to take control of this spiral of corruption of governance and refuse to issue a Decision Notice for this Development in the most transparent way possible. That is to put this application on the first available meeting, air the issues once more and to follow the example of leading councillors in refusing the application.

yours sincerely

Marianne Birkby

On behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign)

Radiation Free Lakeland

Campaigns :  

Lakes Against Nuclear Dump

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole


6th Climate Budget     note the Climate Change Committee is appointed by BEIS who awarded West Cumbria Mining Coal Authority conditional license in 2013/14

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in West Cumbria

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in Bangladesh

Who is Responsible for Radioactive Waste on the Irish Sea Bed – Call from Nuclear Free Local Authorities

Steve Reece WCM/RWM

Mark Kirkbride WCM/CoRWM

Mark Kirkbride 

Above extract 

19 Feb 2020Return of final meeting in a creditors’ voluntary winding up

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

24 Nov 2020Registration of charge 071433980002, 

the document can be found here

TAKE ACTION! We Have Already Delayed the Coal Mine … Now We Need to Stop It.


Dear Friends,THANKS TO ALL who are donating and sharing, writing and campaigning –

without you this mine would already be underway!!  We have delayed it repeatedly,  now we need to stop it.

The Bad News!Robert Jenrick MP the Communities Secretary has decided not to call in the County Council’s Yes vote for a public inquiry.  

The Good News!The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have put their weight behind our campaign by urging Cumbria County Council to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch.

Our fight against the mine continues and there are a couple of ACTIONS  people can take right now.

1.  Write to Cumbria County Council urging them to take the advice of the UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities and to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield  which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch.  

On Radio Cumbria’s Mike Zeller show of the 7th January Cumbria County Council were quoted as saying that the radioactive risks of induced seismicity and subsidence are acceptable.   This is an outrageous abdication of the Council’s responsibility to the public’s health and safety.  

Ask Cumbria County Council not to issue a final Decision Notice but to take this opportunity to reconsider the expected subsidence and radioactive impacts of this coal mine.  

A Template Letter is below – please do write in your own words – there are many reasons why the Council should not issue a Decision Notice – as well as the radioactive impacts there are the climate impacts too.

2.  We are looking at a new legal challenge on radioactive impacts of this coal mine. As before, all monies go direct to top lawyers Leigh Day who have already successfully repeatedly delayed the plan.  The legal challenge would be in my name (Marianne B) on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole– Please do share ……..and if you can (I know times are so tough) …..please donate.  DONATE HERE – HELP STOP THE CUMBRIAN COAL MINE 

TEMPLATE LETTER (for inspiration) EMAIL

Dear Councillor Geoff Cook Woodhouse Colliery Application Reference No. 4/17/9007

Thank you for voting against the amended coal mine plan.  
I have heard that the Secretary of State will not be calling this decision in for a public inquiry.  
I would be very grateful if Cumbria County Council would take the advice of the UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities and reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield (currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch).  

On Radio Cumbria’s Mike Zeller show of the 7th January 2021 Cumbria County Council were quoted as saying that the radioactive risks of induced seismicity and subsidence are acceptable.   This would seem to be an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to the public’s health and safety.  Please ensure that Cumbria County Council do not issue a final Decision Notice until the expected subsidence and radioactive impacts of this coal mine have been fully considered,  including the ongoing internal review into Sellafield’s Freedom of Information response regarding the Responsibility for Radioactive Wastes on the Irish Sea Bed.

Thank you

Yours sincerely, 

Copy sent to Leader of Cumbria County Council Stuart Young




The nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland have been opposing the coal mine under the Irish Sea since 2017 with their Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign.  Legal challenges from the group’s founder Marianne Birkby with law firm Leigh Day has seen the plan repeatedly delayed.  In October of last year despite evidence presented on the enormous climate and nuclear impacts by various groups and experts, the amended plan received planning permission from (a no longer unanimous) Cumbria County Council.  The plan however still needs to be given final planning approval by Cumbria County Council with a “Decision Notice.” 

The Secretary of State had previously ordered the Council not to give final approval until his say so.  In responding to the group, the Planning Casework Unit on behalf of the Secretary of State Robert Jenrick MP said today  “I appreciate that this is not the preferred outcome for you and I understand that there will be great disappointment as a result.  It is however, now for Cumbria County Council to determine this application and a copy of our letter to the Council is attached for your information.”

Keep Cumbrian Coal has been continuing with “full on opposition mode” with ongoing ‘protest jogs’ through Whitehaven and banners placed on the Haig Museum lwhich is now being used as West Cumbria Mining’s offices (the Haig Museum land and buildings were bought for just £1 by WCM.  The nuclear safety group has just received confirmation that their Freedom of Information requests regarding the “expected subsidence” and resuspension of Sellafield’s radioactive wastes from the sea bed as a result of the coal mine has gone to Sellafield for internal review. 



The question of WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE RADIOACTIVE WASTES ON THE SEA BED? has not been answered. Sellafield reply that they and other agencies are “Monitoring” the radioactive pollution. This “monitoring” is not a substitute for taking responsibility for and avoiding resuspension of decades of discharged radioactive wastes. Instead of working to avoid resuspension Sellafield is actively SUPPORTING the coal mine from which subsidence is “EXPECTED TO OCCUR”. This means that resuspension of radioactive wastes is also “EXPECTED TO OCCUR”. The public expect Sellafield and the nuclear industry to be taking full responsibility for their nuclear wastes by reducing harm not actively inviting it with support for a development which induces seismicity and subsidence. Our question of WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR THESE RADIOACTIVE WASTES ON THE IRISH SEA BED? has not been answered by Sellafield.

From West Cumbria Mining’s own documentation:
Coal will be predominantly mined off shore in areas known as panels (Figure 9). These panels will typically be some 110 m wide, and can in some cases be over 1 km long, depending on the geological conditions encountered. Up to 60 % of coal within
the boundaries of a mining panel may be extracted with 40 % being left behind. It is above these panels that subsidence is expected to occur. At present, the precise location of these panels is indicative and will only truly be established during the mining operation when a greater understanding of the structural geology is gained after accessing the particular area to be mined. None of these panels will be developed under the MCZ.”

Yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address:…

A New Challenge to the Coal Mine Plan

Dear Friends

A New Challenge to the Coal Mine Plan

We urgently need to raise funds to challenge the new (amended) plan to open the first deep coal mine in the UK in over 30 years.

Previous huge generosity of supporters has already delayed the plan.  The developers West Cumbria Mining’s initial plan was to start construction in 2017. !!

A legal challenge was put forward in my name under the banner Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign).  The detailed work by top lawyers Leigh Day meant that the legal challenge led to developers  amending their application.  In October of this year despite overwhelming evidence on the enormous climate and nuclear impacts the amended plan received planning permission from (a no longer unanimous) Cumbria County Council.

Climate Impacts

Now we need funds to continue the fight and STOP THIS COAL MINE.  While the climate impacts of this mine have been much in the news, with the enormous carbon emissions over the lifetime of the mine, the nuclear impacts have been more taboo and were not even mentioned by the councillors in their deliberations.

Nuclear Impacts

The mine would be five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site –Sellafield   Mass void removal as proposed by this coal mine is known to induce seismicity.   As well as this certain seismic risk the mine would be directly below the radioactive sediments which have settled on the Irish Sea bed from decades of Sellafield discharges.  The radioactive sediment estimated to include around 500kg of plutonium along with a cocktail of other radioactive isotopes ( the devastation of Nagasaki was caused by 1kg of plutonium) is named as the Cumbrian Mud Patch. In approving the plan the County Council acknowledged that seismicity and subsidence of the Irish Sea bed is likely but that it could be “mitigated” – with the developers self moderating impacts. Incredibly Sellafield is “in support” of the coal mine plan which lies below  the decades worth of their radioactive waste discharge lying on the Irish Sea bed (the plan was to “dilute and disperse”).

No Coming Back

The nuclear impacts are of a magnitude literally out of this world as the high level radioactive wastes and plutonium stockpiles sitting at Sellafield if accidently released through induced seismicity from methane explosion or mass void removal could do what they were originally designed to do and annihilate the biosphere many times over. This and the certain risk of resuspension of the Cumbrian Mud Patch wastes means that this coal mine puts us all at direct risk of a nuclear fall out there would be no coming back from.

Public Inquiry?

Campaigners have also been lobbying the Secretary of State to call the decision in for a public inquiry. If a public inquiry were to be called we would use any donations to pay for expert advice and representation by Leigh Day.

With your help we can challenge this outrageous decision by Cumbria County Council.  This coal mine would have impacts way beyond the sum of its parts.

With your help we can and we MUST STOP the Cumbrian Coal Mine 

PLEASE SUPPORT THIS NEW CHALLENGE – You can support the challenge by donating and sharing  HERE

Note: All money goes directly to our Lawyers, Leigh Day who have already worked at well below commercial rates but we still need funds to cover legal fees and court costs should they arise.  Already we have, with Leigh Day’s detailed legal work, delayed this plan now we need to stop the plan in its tracks.  

Many Thanks!!

Marianne Birkby

The Moment

This is the moment that Cumbria County Council approve the Coal Mine (again) – not unanimous this time – the Chair and the Vice Chair vote against along with another councillor.

The phrase “banality of evil” comes to mind.

There were powerful testimonies from members of the public and experts. I was barred from speaking and from delivering the petition (the petition was included in the speeches by Sam Moisha who spoke powerfully on nuclear risks). Due to a tech hitch I was an hour late getting my submission in (having registered to speak months ago) – the council used their ‘discretion’ to disallow my voice on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (despite others handing in submissions even later and being allowed to speak).

There were confident testimonies from those in favour including the Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie who said he was proud to support the development and he reiterated the strong support from Conservative MPs and Sellafield. The CEO of the development Mark Kirkbride spoke angrily (he protests too much?) saying that the development has NO LINK TO NUCLEAR WASTE ( he did not explain his role at Radioactive Waste Management) but provided no assurances about the acknowledged subsidence issues of the Cumbrian Mud Patch or proximity to Sellafield and seismicity. There were powerful speeches from members of the public and experts opposing the development. The presentations included climate damage, new steel making processes, proximity to Sellafield and subsidence of the radioactive Cumbrian Mud Patch . Given the excellent presentations you would have expected a vigorous debate from councillors. Not so. The first councillor to speak was Brenda Grey (LibDem) who said scientists were not to be trusted and that if we were ever on a new war footing then steel would be needed. Councillor Grey followed this up by proposing the motion to approve the decision subject to the 101 conditions. There was no reminder from the Chair or Officers that the Secretary of State has applied a holding condition on the development. The holding condition tells the Council that they could refuse the decision but not approve it – only that they could be “minded to approve” subject to the Secretary of States decision. So they could refuse but not approve!

The second speaker was Councillor Anthony Markley who spoke of the need for jobs, industrial development and his pride at being part of this new development’s future. He then seconded the motion to approve the first deep coal mine in 30 years. Councillor Markley had said pretty much the same about the plan for the high level wastes geological nuclear dump under Silloth – and then changed his mind saying he was listening to his constituents regarding health and safety. Concern for the health and safety of his constituents and their future was not in evidence in this instance.

The three councillors who voted against the plan but did not speak powerfully against it – insisting that the issue was “finely balanced” and “difficult” were the Chair Geoff Cook, the Vice Chair Alan McGuckin and Councillor Hilary Carrick. There were two abstentions and one who could not vote (tech problems) which left 12 councillors voting for the plan.

The full reports from the council can be viewed here

The full roll call of shame is below

Geoffrey David (Geoff) CookChairExpected
Alan McGuckinVice-ChairExpected
Roger Kenneth BinghamCommittee MemberExpected
Joseph (Alan) BownessCommittee MemberExpected
Hilary CarrickCommittee MemberExpected
Frank CassidyCommittee MemberExpected
Nicholas Charles (Nick) CottonCommittee MemberExpected
Brenda GrayCommittee MemberExpected
Des EnglishCommittee MemberExpected
Kevin Robert HamiltonCommittee MemberExpected
Keith Haigh HitchenCommittee MemberExpected
Joseph Simon (Joe) HollidayCommittee MemberExpected
Anthony James (Tony) MarkleyCommittee MemberExpected
William (Bill) McEwanCommittee MemberExpected
Frank Irving MorganCommittee MemberExpected
Paul TurnerCommittee MemberExpected
Doug WilsonCommittee MemberExpected
Melvyn Henry (Mel) WorthCommittee MemberExpected
Svetlana BainbridgeOfficerExpected
Mark BrennandOfficerExpected
Philippa ChristieOfficerExpected
Richard CryerOfficerExpected
Jackie CurrieOfficerExpected
Geoff FewkesCouncil StaffExpected
Paul HagginOfficerExpected
David HughesOfficerExpected
Louise MavingOfficerExpected
Edward PageOfficerExpected
Jayne PetersenOfficerExpected
Andy SimsOfficerExpected
Jason WeatherillOfficerExpected
Alison NuttallOfficerExpected
Nicola HarrisonSecretaryExpected

The Press has focussed on climate campaigners and the climate damage rather than the proximity to Sellafield and the resuspension of the Cumbrian Mud Patch. KCCH have sent countless press releases out about the nuclear issues but as a BBC reporter said to me “we are’nt interested in the nuclear side”.

I did manage to include proximity to Sellafield in this interview with RT (how ironic as New Century Media the PR company behind West Cumbria Mining also is the PR company for Rosatom – the Russian state nuclear department)

Interview with Marianne Birkby – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
Interview with Councillor Tony Markley who voted for the first deep coal mine in 30 years

Government May Intervene

 MANY THANKS TO LEFT FOOT FORWARD FOR THE ARTICLE – extracts below – full article can be read here

Revealed: Government may intervene in Cumbria coal mine application

Tommy Greene Yesterday

The council is set to approve the mine – but government could over-rule them.


“The ministry’s offical continued: “Please be assured that the Secretary of State will give due consideration to your organisation’s representations and those submitted by other parties, when deciding whether to call in the application.”

“Planning permission was first granted at the site last November. However, Ms Birkby’s legal challenge has since forced WCM to amend its plans and has pushed the local authority to reconsider the application.”

“Aside from the climate change implications of the project – it is estimated the mine will emit 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 each year – campaigners have pointed to concerns over nuclear waste suspended at a mud patch near the planned extraction area in the Irish Sea.”


Terrifying Nuclear Potential of Cumbrian Coal Mine

Below is the excellent presentation by Sami which will be delivered to the Committee making the decision on the coal mine tomorrow. This weeks news coverage of the consequences of an accident at Sellafield should alert Councillors to the madness of increasing the risks .—new-map-shows/. – this rather underplays the consequences of an accident at Sellafield – the Council should take heed.

Sami Moisha

Presentation for Development Control 

Committee on Oct 2nd  

My name is Sami Moisha, my family are from Cumbria, I currently live in Lancaster.   I wish to object strongly to this proposal in terms of environmental impact as it affects my own safety and health.  The proposal also affects the safety and health of many hundreds of thousands of others through the certainty of accelerating climate change and the terrifying potential for generating a nuclear emergency at Sellafield.

In the terms of the National Policy Planning Framework – I wish to object to this application on environmental grounds affecting public safety on the grounds that – 

 A] It is not environmentally acceptable  – and that none of the planning conditions or obligations can make it so 

and that 

B] There are no community benefits  – that can outweigh the potential for a nuclear emergency at the Sellafield site.

Essentially there are no planning conditions which could ever make this application environmentally acceptable.

  • Deep mining under the sea to within 8km of Sellafield [WCM data] poses massive environmental danger via the subsidence which is inevitable  – and more significantly  – the potential for earth tremors damaging the facilities at the nuclear site.  
  • The local geology is known to be massively faulted.  The geology that WCM plans to mine is completely connected to the geology underneath Sellafield which houses one of the largest stockpiles of nuclear material in Europe, if not the world.
  • Any earth tremor caused by mining or subsidence would have catastrophic effects in terms of a nuclear emergency bringing massive danger to life over a vast area
  • Such a nuclear emergency would affect not only the Cumbrian coast, but the entire UK and other nations as well.  Remember Chernobyl – and that effect here in Cumbria.  Have neighbouring nations been consulted on this proposal?
  • While no one can predict exactly what potential subsidence or earth tremor may result from the mining operations – it is this very real but unknown potential that is the threat.
  • Committee members simply cannot approve this application because they cannot answer for the public safety /community benefit of the hundreds of thousands of people affected by the potential for a radioactive emergency incident.  
  • This Committee is thus in the surreal position of having numerous detailed proposals relating to dust, footpaths and tree planting around the WCM site coupled with a complete disregard for a potential major nuclear incident.

This renders the application totally unacceptable on environmental grounds.

The public safety issues for Cumbria/UK and beyond are simply too great for this mine to proceed.