Letter in the Guardian – Cumbrian Coal Must Stay in the Ground

The government’s rejection of coal-mining in Northumberland is good news, says Marianne Birkby. Now they must follow up by rejecting plans for a new Cumbrian mine

St Bees, Cumbria
The proposed deep coal mine would run under the Irish Sea off the coast of St Bees, Cumbria (pictured). Photograph: Chris Ord

What fantastic news that the government has rejected plans for an opencast coal mine in Northumberland (Javid rejects plan for opencast coalmine, 24 March).

This should put the nail firmly in the coffin of the plan for the first deep coalmine in the UK in 30 years. This would be at the proposed Woodhouse Colliery, which is north of Kendal (not south as wrongly located in your article) and under the Irish Sea off the beautiful coastline of St Bees.

St Bees happens to be the last place where the black guillemot nests in England, which is why the RSPB has opposed the plan. Other reasons to oppose, apart from the compelling climate-change argument, are that it is just five miles from Sellafield. The Davy lamp was tested out in nearby Whitehaven because coal seams here are so gassy with methane. What could go wrong with mining ever nearer to Sellafield? There is a petition to sign opposing this mad plan at 38 Degrees called Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.
Marianne Birkby
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole



The following letter has been sent to all Cumbrian Councillors on the Development Control and Regulation Committee . These councillors will be taking the decision in April whether or not to give a green light to the first deep coal mine in the UK …near to Sellafield.  The letter outlines concerns about induced seismic activity from coal mining and is especially pertinent to today’s earthquake.  There will always be earthquakes – but should there be developments near Sellafield that have the capacity to induce seismicity?  West Cumbria Mining have told campaigners that the plan is for coal to be mined up to five miles from Sellafield.
The Letter sent out today….
Dear Councillor …,
West Cumbria Mining – Planning Meeting Scheduled for the 18th April
Good Afternoon.   I am writing to you from the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign (a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign).
The timing of this morning’s earthquake is uncanny as the previous day we had sent a letter to Tim Farron on this very subject.  I am sure you would agree that increasing the risk of earthquakes in Cumbria should be avoided and yet there is a plan to mine for coal just five miles from Sellafield off the St Bees Coast.  Coal mining is known to induce seismicity – this also is the case with with heavy loading (Moorside/new nuclear would equal 100s of 1000s of tonnes of concrete) and injection (Preston New Road fracking site is 49 miles from Sellafield).
Over the last several decades Cumbria County Council has been minded to approve many developments at Sellafield including reprocessing which has led to a terrible accumulation of increasingly dangerous nuclear wastes. http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1976/nov/03/windscale-nuclear-reprocessing
I am sure you would agree that it is now incumbent on Cumbria County Council to ensure the safe stewardship of Sellafield. That safe stewardship must include shunning dangerous new developments nearby, whether they be nuclear, or coal.
Our letter to Tim Farron said:
“Dear Tim,
Last April we wrote to the HSE about the proposals to extract coal within five miles of Sellafield and fracking five miles from Springfields in Preston.  We did not recieve a reply.
Last week we sent (after trying to hand deliver..just think Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy!) a petition of 1163 signatures (and growing) and a letter to the HSE asking that there should be a moratorium on the extraction of fossil fuel in such  close proximity to dangerous nuclear installations.
The Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations carried out an assessment of seismic risk for nuclear installations following Fukushima.    However the report (Japanese earthquake and tsunami: Implications for the UK nuclear industry HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations September 2011) makes no reference to the impact of new fossil fuel extraction near nuclear installations and does not include the real possibility of induced seismicity from that fossil fuel extraction.
This is the reason we have written to the HSE to ask for a moratorium on fossil fuel extraction which is currently proposed so close to Springfields, Lancashire (the front end of the nuclear cycle) and Sellafield, Cumbria ( the back end of the nuclear cycle) both sites are at risk of criticality following seismic events.
The full letter to the HSE is included below. We have not recieved an acknowledgment.  We would be very grateful if you could ensure that this letter is seen and acted upon by the HSE.”

In 2016 The Ecologist reported that: “Especially serious are the ~20 large holding tanks at Sellafield containing thousands of litres of extremely radiotoxic fission products.” Discussing these tanks, the previous management consortium, Nuclear Management Partners, stated in 2012: “There is a mass of very hazardous [nuclear] waste onsite in storage conditions that are extraordinarily vulnerable, and in facilities that are well past their designated life”The National Audit Office (NAO) stated these tanks pose “significant risks to people and the environment”.   One official review published in The Lancet concluded that, at worst, an explosive release from the tanks could kill two million Britons and require the evacuation of an area reaching from Glasgow to Liverpool.    This certainly would negate Cumbria County Council’s strategic objective of avoiding adverse impacts from developments ( Objective 2, Cumbria Minerals and Waste Local Plan 2.27)

Coal mining causes induced seismicity.  Please consider today’s earthquake when you make your decision on 18th April on the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years…..near Sellafield.
Yours sincerely
Marianne Birkby
on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign

Campaigners Shocked At ‘What Coal Mine?’ Survey Response

Local Radio Stations have reported on our survey.  Many thanks to The Bay and Lakeland Radio .

From the Bay Radio…

Campaigners Shocked At ‘What Coal Mine?’ Survey Response

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018 5:00am

Campaigners say they’re surprised that plans for a deep coal mine off the Cumbrian coast don’t seem to be common knowledge.

A survey in Kendal last week found that 100% of the respondents knew about the Thirlmere zip wire plans – but none had heard about the mine proposals, just 30 miles from Kendal – under the Irish Sea at St Bees.

Both applications will be heard on March 7th, in Kendal, by the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria County Council respectively.

Marianne Birkby from Radiation Free Lakeland said: “Of these two developments, the plan that will, beyond any shadow of a doubt have the most damaging and long lasting impacts on Cumbria and our neighbours is the coal mine.

“But this is the plan that campaigners Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole say is ‘going way under the radar’.

“Everyone questioned in the survey was astonished that there is a plan to open a new coal mine which would extend under the Irish Sea from St Bees.”

The developers, West Cumbria Mining, have told campaigners that mining could take place five miles from Sellafield but that ‘seismic activity as a result of mining would not be a problem.’

Opponents say it’s not a risk worth taking.

In September, campaigners met in Bowness to ask people to sign their petition against the plans, calling for them to “show resistance” to the first new deep coal mine in the UK for more than 30 years.