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   https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/help-stop-the-cumbrian-coal-mi/

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 https://councilportal.cumbria.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=124&MId=10597&Ver=4

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 .

https://www.nwemail.co.uk/news/18752191.sellafield-nuclear-disaster-spread-across-cumbria—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.

Secretary of State Says he WILL Consider a Call in Should Cumbria County Council say Yes Again to this Uniquely Dangerous Plan

Many thanks to the Cumberland Echo for publishing this report…

Coal mine objectors claim some progress
Written by John Walsh   
Thursday, 24 September 2020
coalin the hole.png

Radiation Free Lakeland are claiming progress in their campaign to stop a new coal-mining plan for west Cumbria. The South Lakes based nuclear safety campaigners have had a reply to their call for the forthcoming decision on the coal mine to be called in should the County Council approve the amended plan. 

The Secretary of State has replied to the group saying he will consider a call in.Radiation Free Lakeland were the first group to oppose the coal mine back in 2017 under their Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign.They are the only group actively campaigning against the plan on nuclear concerns.

Founder of RaFL Marianne Birkby, raised nearly £11,000 by crowd funding in order to take on the legal challenge against Cumbria County Council’s decision.With the help of top lawyers Leigh Day that legal challenge has seen the coal plan repeatedly kicked into the long grass.

She said: “This reply from the Secretary of States office, saying that he will consider whether or not to call in the decision should the Council say yes is good news.  “There are many reasons why this plan should be scrapped, not only on climate grounds but on nuclear safety grounds too.”

The Nuclear safety campaigners are keeping a close eye on the ongoing inquiry into the series of methane explosions in May 2020 at a newly constructed metallurgical mine in Australia. The new mine in Queensland operated by Anglo American has seen a catalogue of disasters.

It was reported – “Four of the men, who sustained horrific burns to their upper torsos and airways, have only just been moved out of intensive care, while the fifth miner was released from hospital in late May. Testifying to the intensity of the blast, he told the media that it melted the workers’ helmets and ear plugs and burnt their work clothing.”  (http://www.coalzoom.com/article.cfm?articleid=22331 )RaFL have urged the council to look at the similarities and at the big nuclear difference between the new Australian mine and the Cumbria plan.The Australian mine was billed as “state of the art” which is highly automated requiring less employees  and is a methane rich metallurgical coal mine.  The big difference say Cumbrian nuclear safety campaigners is that the Australian mine is not five miles from the world’s acknowledged biggest concentration of radioactivity at Sellafield or beneath the Cumbrian Mud Patch – a named sediment ‘patch’ off the St Bees coastline containing plutonium and tonnes of other chemical and radioactive material from decades of nuclear reprocessing.  Campaigners have sent councillors a dedicated report by an expert in marine radioactivity Tim Deere- Jones regarding the resuspension of radioactive wastes resulting from new mine subsidence.   

More from the Cumberland Echo Here

Petition to Stop the Cumbrian Coal Mine can be signed here

“Promises Ain’t Worth Diddley Squat” As They Say In Utah

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole has just been sent this very well referenced eye-opener about the completely hollow promises being made to the movers and shakers of West Cumbria by West Cumbria Mining. Those councillors and MPs who peddle those hollow promises verbatim as though they are the gospel truth should read this.

High and Dry ?

“Promises Aint Worth Diddly Squat” As They Say in Utah

For those of us who want to keep Cumbria’s Coal in the Hole and who are concerned that the Ultimate Beneficial Owners of West Cumbria Mining are unknown by the public in UK, being hidden behind an EMR Capital offshore fund and a wall of financial secrecy around the Cayman Islands, there is some news to be shared. In fact even those who appear not to be concerned, especially certain Cumbria, Copeland, Whitehaven and St Bees councillors, should be made aware of this development as the next Woodhouse Colliery Decision Day, 2 October 2020, fast approaches. 

Why the councillors? Because they are mainly the ones who’ve been seduced by the figures-out-of-the-air promises of West Cumbria Mining to bring 510 jobs to Whitehaven, with “up to” 80% of them to be set aside for local people. Never mind the risk to Sellafield, never mind the risk to the environment and our climate goals, never mind the financial risk of going after unproven resources in the face of less and less demand. But they are also the ones who need to realise how unreliable these promises are and how really quickly they can be broken.

So what’s the news then? Over in Millard County, Utah, USA a Canadian company called Crystal Peak Mining is about to have a 2015 agreed loan foreclosed by EMR Capital. That’s because Crystal Peak won’t have enough cash left by the end of next week and EMR have told them that this is the end of the road for their proposed potash mine near Salt Lake City. But it was only in August of last year that Crystal Peak convinced Land Management planners in Utah to give them the green light after they promised employment for about 275 people during construction and 175 permanently afterwards. 

Not much chance of those promised jobs coming anytime soon now, either in Millard or Copeland for that matter. That’s something that the WCM Board’s Chairman Don Carroll probably knows already, seeing as how he is also on the board of Crystal Peak Mining courtesy of EMR Capital.  

Cumbria’s planners really should be bearing the hard lesson learned in Utah in mind as they put the finishing touches to the benefit/adverse impact balance paragraphs of their next report and recommendation for next week’s Cumbria Council Development Control and Regulation Committee. The hard lesson they need to learn is that promises ain’t worth diddly squat, as they are still saying in Utah.”



Dear Friends,

Big apologies as this will read like blowing my own toy trumpet – but recent uncorrected press reports re the legal challenge have stated that climate groups and their campaign organisers were “involved in the legal challenge” . This is not true. See below….

MANY THANKS to all who have supported the Legal Challenge from myself Marianne Bennett (aka Birkby) against  Cumbria County Council’s decision to approve West Cumbria Mining’s original planning application.


My decision to take on the legal challenge was not made easily.   As a known anti-nuclear campaigner and founder of the small, volunteer anti-nuclear group Radiation Free Lakeland, I  have no climate activist following (despite nuclear being the ultimate block on a healthy future). Our focus at Radiation Free Lakeland is nuclear safety. Namely to stop new nuclear build, the dumping and dispersal of nuclear wastes and the biggie – the proposed Geological Disposal of Nuclear Wastes.  I took the Legal case on with the extraordinary help of top lawyers Leigh Day primarily because at that time no one and no other group in Cumbria or the UK was willing to take such a bold stance against the plan.  The plan to mine for coal so near to the Sellafield nuclear waste plant and directly below the radioactive Cumbrian Mud Patch is outrageous on many levels.  So on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole which is a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign – we took up the challenge – and that challenge has been successful in that we have engaged the interest and energy of climate activists and West Cumbria Mining have been forced back to the drawing board  (they deny their new application is anything to do with the legal challenge- more on that below!). 

Brief Time- Line of the Legal Challenge 

31st May 2017 – West Cumbria Mining applied to Cumbria County Council for planning permision for a new underground coal mine with coking coal intended for use in the steel industry and middlings coal intended as a fuel source for other industrial uses.

March 2019 – Cumbria County Council resolved to grant planning permission.

June 21st 2019 – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole wrote to Cumbria County Council pointing out that their flawed decision justified a reconsideration.  The Secretary of State had also been asked by Tim Farron MP and KCCH and others to call in the decision for his consideration.

October 31st Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee reconsidered their resolution and once again resolved unanimously to grant consent.

November 2019 – the Secretary of State resolved not to call in the decision  (In the same month the CEO of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – tasked with delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility)

The application by Marianne Bennett V Cumbria County Council  for Judicial Review was filed on 12th December 2019.   The Grounds included failure to consider Green House Gas emissions,  15% extraction and ‘need’ for Middlings coal and failure to have regard to the introduction of the net zero target by 2050 into the Climate Change Act 2008 on 27thJune 2019.

 7th May 2020  – The High Court made an order listing the hearing for the 18th May 2020. Coincidentally, on the same date, West Cumbria Mining submitted the amendments to its planning application to Cumbria County Council.   West Cumbria Mining proposed that they would amend their planning application to exclude Middlings Coal – ie the Middlings Coal would undergo a new process on site to render it into Coking Coal.  In order to do this the overall quality of the coking coal would be reduced to include a much greater ash and sulphur content.  

13th May 2019 – Marianne Bennett withdraws the now null Judicial Review challenge against the original planning application.  

Fast forward to August 2020 and the thorny issue of who pays for the Court Costs.    

Battle Over Costs

West Cumbria Mining (the Interested Party) applied to the High Court for their costs of over £26,000 to be paid for by M Bennett.  The Judge – Mr Justice Dove ruled that “In short, there is in my view no substance to the Interested Party’s application for costs against the Claimant and it is dismissed.”

M Bennett on behalf of KCCH made a counter claim for costs on the basis that the amendments to the developers planning application had been made with a view to overcoming the grounds upon which judicial review was based.   Unfortunately for us the Judge dismissed this claim also.


This means that Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole have achieved, despite all the odds stacked against, us a massive victory in doing what we set out to do – namely to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and send the Developers back to the drawing board (date of amended planning application may be 2nd October). 

This achievement would not have been possible without the massive generosity of all those who have contributed to the Crowd Fund.  Our lawyers Leigh Day have put in far more time and expertise than the amount we have raised.  By not achieving any Costs through the High Court – All the monies raised will now go towards covering some of Leigh Days costs (the work they have done has been far in excess of the monies raised) and also the court costs.  

This means that we no longer have a fighting fund – but the good news is that others are now ‘on the case.’   

We will continue to oppose the amended planning application and with all our collective opposition  – we will stop this plan in its tracks for good.   


There is more information here on how you can continue to TAKE ACTION against the plan to mine for coal under the Irish Sea spitting distance from the worlds most dangerous nuclear waste site, Sellafield.

Protests – Well Done!

South Lakeland and Lancaster Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament at the Protest yesterday in Kendal
– Stop the Coal Mine!

Well done to South Lakeland Action on Climate Change and XR South Lakes for organising the protest in Kendal yesterday on the day the Council was set to decide the amended planning application.

The Truth is that HUGE Thanks are due to Leigh Day whose amazing legal work on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole has ensured this diabolic coal mine plan has gone back to the drawing board (West Cumbria Mining will deny this of course, saying the amendment has nothing to do with our the legal challenge – yeah right!)

The work that Leigh Day have done is to the £value, way in excess of the albeit generous donations to our CrowdJustice fundraiser. The actual value is immeasurable so ….

We Cannot Say it Enough,

Thank You Leigh Day!

With all our elbows to the wheel we can stop this plan.

Please keep taking Action.

PETITION There is an ongoing Petition which will be delivered to Cumbria County Council when they take their decision (October at the soonest!). You can also write to the Council Here

LETTER TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE Robert Jenrick – Also – Please do write to the Secretary of State asking him to call in the planning application — your letter does not need to be long – one of the key points made in our own letter which you can use for inspiration is below, and the full letter is here:

The original selling point of this mine was that it would produce “premium quality” coking coal for steel manufacture.   West Cumbria Mining in attempting to address the challenge from Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole regarding “middlings coal” as a “by-product” have made this proposed development even more absurd by adding a new (and even more polluting) onsite process to render the extracted thermal/middlings coal into coking coal. The relaxing of conditions necessary to facilitate this inclusion of lower grade coal are applied for in this new amended application and detailed in West Cumbria Mining’s Planning Statement R20 – page 51.


WRITE: For the Attention of Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government – Asking him to call in the decision which is to be made by Cumbria County Council (this can be done ahead of the decision – so lets nip any “Yes” vote by Cumbria County Council in the bud)

This is the form to use for your Call In letter to the Secretary of State. https://forms.communities.gov.uk/

Article in the Ecologist Exposes Links between West Cumbria Mining and Radioactive Waste Management

Trojan Cumbrian Coal Mine ?


Dear Friends,

Thank you for so much to everyone who has contributed to the CrowdJustice page to fight the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years.  We have succeeded so far – now we need to put a full stop to the plan!!  

An article published this week in The Ecologist exposes yet another layer to the myriad of reasons why this coal mine must be stopped.  

An extract from the article states :

Nuclear Safety campaigners feel that it is of great concern that the Conservative government made no attempt to be transparent about appointing the CEO of West Cumbria Mining to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in the very same month that they gave the green light to the same CEO’s Coal Mine project.  This is at the very least a direct conflict of interest. 

They argue that it is shocking that this appointment regarding radioactive wastes has been made at all, given the fact that one of Radiation Free Lakeland’s major objections to West Cumbria Mining’s coal project is that there is a strong likelihood of radioactive consequences – from subsidence and resuspension of radioactive and chemical material from the Cumbrian Mud Patch  –  and from induced seismicity near the Sellafield site.

Please do keep sharing the petition to Stop the Coal Mine and if you have time ….Please do send in letters to members of the planning committee asking them to scrap this dangerous plan for the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years.  Even if you have written before – write again to remind the councillors to say a big fat NO!! 

Quote – West Cumbria Mining: Planning Application Ref 4/17/9007: 

Woodhouse Colliery, High Road, Whitehaven

and remember to put your name and address.   People can also ask to speak at the meeting which will be taking place online and via telephone.  

PETTION https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-new-coal-mine-in-cumbria

With Many Thanks – We CAN Stop this mine with your help!!