Russian Government has a large slice of West Cumbria Mining New Director’s Coal Pie.
Our government are ignoring calls for diplomatic negotiations with Russia to take precedent over increasingly dangerous (and lucrative) war games while endorsing developments with ties to the Russian government. Makes no sense at all unless viewed through the business as usual at any cost lens.
Just a week after government approved the first deep coal mine in over 30 years in the UK, a new director was appointed to West Cumbria Mining.
Owen Hegarty appointed to West Cumbria Mining on 16th December 2022 is no ordinary Director. He is founder and Executive Chairman of EMR Capital, a private equity company who put up the £Millions to get West Cumbria Mining started.
In December 2020 the headline in Financial Review boldly asserted “There’s never been a better time to mine coal in Siberia” “Mining industry veteran Owen Hegarty says his Siberian coking coal venture is poised to capitalise on China’s blacklisting of Australian coal, as it embarked on an exquisitely timed $43.5 million fundraising on Wednesday. ASX-listed Tigers Realm Coal has been mining on Russia’s Pacific coast for three years”
So the new Director is an opportunist then – nothing wrong with that you might say.
However this opportunist has no qualms about accepting money from governments. In the case of Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal, the Russian government: “The certificates of residency in the ADZ provide Tigers Realm with valuable benefits that include looser regulation, tax breaks and the ability to receive financing from Russia’s sovereign fund.” The Beringovsky Advanced Development Zone (ADZ) was created by Russian legislation to provide an attractive investment and administrative framework for investors and companies in the Russian Far East.
Without the Russian government’s largesse Owen Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal venture would have collapsed as according to Greenpeace’s Unearthed blog “A plan by a small Australian-listed coal company to build two massive mines in the Russian Arctic is teetering on collapse as local indigenous landowners voice their concerns, the coal price continues to crater and banks remain wary of funding the project.” The article goes on to reveal that “Before Tigers Realm Coal arrived on the scene, indigenous landowners – heavily reliant on fishing salmon – had endured a long struggle before finally winning legal title to an area of land around the Amaam lagoon, right near the site of the proposed project. The community, which actively opposed coal exploration in the region, was stunned when Tigers Realm kicked off its drilling programme in late 2010. The movement of heavy equipment over the fragile tundra impacted the protection zone of Amaam Lagoon during the crucial sockeye salmon breeding season.”
Amur Tiger (Siberian Tiger -wikipedia) food includes salmon which breed in the Amaam Lagoon.
In April 2014 Tigers Realm Coal received 36 million Australian dollars from the Russian private equity firm Baring Vostok Mining and 16 million Australian dollars from the Russian Government’s Russian Direct Investment Fund (£30M in total). According to Unearthed, Tigers Realm Coal (Tigers Realm Minerals Group TIG) have even bigger ambitions for mining in the Russian Far East.
Owen Hegarty’s appointment as Director at West Cumbria Mining hot on the heels of Government approval for the first deep coal mine in 30 years in the UK has raised not one eyebrow amongst NGOs or the press. This is despite the financial backing of WCM by Hegarty’s EMR Capital (largely from unknown sources) and the large slice of Russian ownership of Hegarty’s Tigers Realm Coal. The May 2022 AGM report for Tigers Realm Minerals Group (TIG) lists Owen Hegarty as “Independent Non-Executive Director” and “Founder of TIG”.
West Cumbria Mining have not yet found time to add Owen Hegarty to their “Meet the Team” despite the illustrious new team member receiving the Order of Australia Medal (OAM) in the June 2021 Queen’s Birthday Honours List for service to the mining and minerals sector.
It does make you wonder about the Orwellian hate directed at Russia by our government on the one hand and approving a deep coal mine near Sellafield with Russian Government backed Director Owen Hegarty on the other.
Also makes you wonder about the push for a deep nuclear dump for high level nuclear wastes, as the government advisor for the nuclear dump is CEO of WCM Mark Kirkbride. Kirkbride’s coal mine has been bankrolled by EMR Capital whose Russian government funded owner (to the tune of at least £30 Million) is now an appointed Director of West Cumbria Mining.
So much for national security – but hey we need the steel from Cumbrian coking coal to build Trident nuclear submarines to protect us all from evil Russia.
High Level Cronyism and Corruption – Coal and Nuclear Waste
Still not raising an eyebrow in the press or by NGOs is the fact that the coal boss Mark Kirkbride is the Government’s key advisor on the dumping of nuclear wastes in big holes.
The latest Committee on Radioactive Waste Management report went online yesterday compiled by non other than CEO of West Cumbria Mining, Mark Kirkbride.
The government has just approved his earthquake inducing deep coal mine in the area of the Irish Sea near Sellafield where the GDF is proposed. This stinks of Government cronyism and corruption but hey – whose looking?
Many will have heard by now the awful news that the coal mine in Cumbria has been approved by Government. What the public have not been made aware of despite the banner headlines is the fact that the coal mine CEO Mark Kirkbride is advising Government on the UK Nuclear Dump plan. This nuclear dump advice includes “investigation techniques” which has started with the seismic blasting.
Radiation Free Lakeland’s Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign has delayed the plan repeatedly with the amazing help of lawyers Leigh Day.
This is not the end of the story.
The mine still has to win approval from the Marine Management Organisation in order to mine under the Marine Conservation Zone, under the Irish Sea.
West Cumbria Mining have however told the Planning Inspector “We may not need a Marine Management Organisation Licence.”
We will be fighting to ensure that the coal mine does not bypass this regulatory process (as has happened with the seismic blasting to test the geology for the nuclear dump as advised by the coal boss and carried out under “exemption”)
We continue to be utterly appalled by the lack of attention on:
a) the earthquake potential of this coal mine which is so very close to the worlds largest stockpiles of plutonium at Sellafield, and
b) the appointment of the coal mine CEO Mark Kirkbride as Government advisor on investigation techniques, costings and construction of a very deep hole (Geological Disposal Facility) for heat generating nuclear wastes in the vicinity of the coal mine.
The Planning Inspector in his recommendation to Government stated : “the risk of a seismic event cannot be ruled out” ( Report to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities by Stephen Normington BSc DipTP MRICS MRTPI FIQ FIHE an Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State Date 7 April 2022- 21.245.) Radiation Free Lakeland/Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole quoted extensively at the Planning Inquiry from expert reports showing that the coal mine would be “likely to induce seismicity”. The Inspector however concluded that due to the lack of technical expert witnesses from NGOs on earthquake risks to Sellafield “I consider the potential impacts in respect of future seismic events should be afforded limited weight.”
It is beyond belief that the CEO of a seismicity inducing coal mine near Sellafield should be employed by Government as an “invaluable” advisor on nuclear waste burial in a Geological Disposal Facility. The coal mine is in the middle of two target areas for a GDF. Radioactive Waste Management (now Nuclear Waste Services) who are advised by the coal mine CEO signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the British Geological Society in June 2020. The BGS are the very people who should be speaking out about the seismic impacts of the coal mine near Sellafield but they are collaborating with the CEO of the coal mine on nuclear waste dump plans. This is many headed cronyism at the highest level.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out) – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
“We urge all those speaking against the mine at the public inquiry to give at least a mention to the fact that this coal mine would mine out voids faster than any previous coal mine in UK history and would induce earthquakes and cause subsidence in the Irish Sea and Sellafield area.”
“Earlier this year, the first batch of waste was safely removed from one of the most hazardous sites at the Sellafield nuclear reprocessing site. “Perhaps they’re going to bury it down the pit,” says a resident with characteristic Cumbrian grit.”
Image: Mark Kirkbride the multi-talented CEO of West Cumbria Mining currently focussed on coal but Kirkbride is also employed by UK Government to advise on the plan to Deliver a deep Geological Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes. UK Government via Secretary of State for Communities Michael Gove MP, are due to take a decison on their “invaluable” nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine any day now. If it sounds dodgy – thats because it is. It is a “Secret Santa” surprise.
Why not retweet this to @michaelgove and tell him to stop with the nuclear waste/coal cronyism, turn down the earthquake inducing coal mine near Sellafield being touted by their key nuclear dump advisor.
We wrote to you back in July to thank you for creating the Marine Conservation Zone above the proposed subsea Cumbria Coal Mine.
As a protector of ocean life legislating to “safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come” we are sure you must be as horrified as we are that the first round of nuclear waste Geological Disposal Facility “investigation” of the subsea area adjacent to the coal mine in Mid and South Copeland has resulted in damaging consequences to marine life.
Nuclear Dump Seismic Blasting in the “Protected” Irish Sea -“Invaluable Advisor” CEO of West Cumbria Mining
The seismic blasting which took place throughout August with blasts of noise every five seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 20 days was advised by coal boss Mark Kirkbride who has been appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management as “invaluable advisor” on nuclear dump (aka Geological Disposal Facility) “investigation techniques” and “costings” The nuclear dump “investigation technique” of seismic blasting coincided with the deaths of harbour porpoise, seals and hundreds of jelly fish along the West Coast of Cumbria. These deaths have been photographed and reported to the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme- Dead Strandings. Over 50,000 people signed a petition opposing the “investigation techniques” as advised by coal boss Mark Kirkbride. 1000 m deep boreholes into the seabed into a methane rich and heavily faulted area of the Irish Sea are the next stage in the GDF “investigations” plan.
Context: First Opposition to the Coal Mine Was from Nuclear Safety Campaigners
To put this into context, the first opposition raised against the coal mine was back in 2017 by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out) a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. Over the last five years our vigorous and dedicated opposition to the coal mine’s inevitable nuclear impacts has been airbrushed out of the public debate. The sheer bloody minded recklessness of proposing an earthquake inducing coal mine close to Sellafield’s growing stockpiles of high level nuclear wastes has been carefully kept out of the public arena despite our constant lobbying of NGOs and the media to flag this up.
Climate Noise and Nuclear Silence
Climate, jobs and need for steel are valid issues but to stay utterly silent on nuclear impacts is morally incoherent and myopic. Deep coal mining produces more earthquakes than fracking and this coal mine is just a few miles from the UKs stockpile of plutonium. This is not virtue signaling on our part, it is a desperate plea to you to have a mind for nuclear safety. Damage to Sellafield’s ponds from coal mine induced earthquakes and the predicted subsidence of the Sellafield mud patch above the subsea coal mine would result in release of the “historic” radioactive wastes. Cumbria would not not be alone in bearing the brunt of nuclear fallout which would extend to Europe. Sellafield’s ponds of high level wastes would not be forgiving of deep coal mine induced earthquakes.
What we never could have imagined in a million years when we first started campaigning against the earthquake inducing coal mine near Sellafield was that the coal mine CEO, Mark Kirkbride, would be appointed by Government to advise on the digging of a very deep hole in which to dump heat generating nuclear wastes.
The Copeland and Allerdale “search areas” for a Geological Disposal Facility are directly either side of Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine, which should have raised a multitude of questions from mainstream NGOs and the media – but the silence has been total.
Back in the 90s there was an inquiry which halted the government’s “NIREX” plan to bury intermediate level nuclear wastes deep underground on the Cumbrian coast near Sellafield. In 2007 the government again returned to Cumbria for a second go, this time to try putting even more dangerous high level wastes deep underground. The NIREX Inquiry Lead Inspector Chris McDonald wrote in 2007 that “..10 years ago the nuclear industry had not found a way of maintaining the stability of that geology when physically exploring the underground site. This difficulty was linked to the second issue of “imperfection”, because the imperfection consists of simply failing to meet the internationally agreed criteria on the suitability of rocks for nuclear waste deposit. The site should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting” The rocks haven’t changed, the coal mine and surrounding subsea area of the Irish Sea is on numerous faults but now as well as creating instability by “exploring the site” there would also be instability created by the massive void of a deep earthquake inducing coal mine immediately adjacent to the nuclear dump plan. The nuclear dump plan which, by the way, is advised by the same geological instability creating coal mine boss. This is mind blowing stuff.
Corruption of Governance?
The fact that UK government is taking advice from the coal mine boss on nuclear dump plans while UK government also has the last say on the coal mine is a corruption of governance. Approval of CEO Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine while KIrkbride is also the governments key nuclear dump advisor would signal the triumph of vested nuclear interests over democracy. Approval of the coal mine would confirm deep and well founded suspicions unreported in the press or flagged by mainstream NGOs that facilitating deep mining for a 25km square, 1000 metre deep, subsea nuclear dump immediately adjacent to the smaller shallower subsea coal mine was the goal all along.
Marine Conservation Zone or Nuclear Sacrifice Zone Courtesy of Coal Mine CEO?
We urge you to honour your hard won Marine Conservation Zone in the Irish Sea and even more importantly to honour government commitments to ensure nuclear safety by halting the coal mine plan. A green light for the earthquake and subsidence inducing coal mine would signal a massive red light for nuclear catastrophe.
We plead with you -Don’t do it – Do not approve the UK nuclear dump advisor’s coal mine.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (and Nuclear Waste Out!) – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign
Marine Conservation Zones: “The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean – but we know there is more to do. Establishing this latest round of Marine Conservation Zones in this Year of Green Action is another big step in the right direction, extending our blue belt to safeguard precious and diverse sea life for future generations to come.”
Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
CEO of West Cumbria Mining – Key Advisor for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management
Letter from NIREX Inquiry Lead Inspector Chris McDonald
Flaws in search for nuclear waste site
Thu 28 Jun 2007
As the lead inspector (now retired) of the 1995-96 public inquiry into the proposed nuclear waste facility in west Cumbria, I was concerned by a couple of points in your piece on the new site search (Report, June 26). The relevant geology in west Cumbria is apparently now claimed to be “stable, although imperfect”. But 10 years ago the nuclear industry had not found a way of maintaining the stability of that geology when physically exploring the underground site.
This difficulty was linked to the second issue of “imperfection”, because the imperfection consists of simply failing to meet the internationally agreed criteria on the suitability of rocks for nuclear waste deposit. The site should be in a region of low groundwater flow, and the geology should be readily characterisable and predictable, whereas the rocks there are actually of a complex volcanic nature, with significant faulting. Also, the industry was relying on an overlying layer of sedimentary strata to dilute and disperse any groundwater leakage, when the international criteria require such a layer to act instead as a barrier. The comprehensive assessment that reports the deficiencies in detail is available on the internet (jpb.co.uk/nirexinquiry/nirex.htm). The site is not suitable and investigations should be moved elsewhere.
The site selection process was flawed, not treating safety as the most important factor, and irrationally affected by a strong desire to locate close to Sellafield. A final point – the sketch design for the repository has not been newly revealed. It was submitted to the 1995-96 inquiry, and has subsequently been discussed in technical journals.
Listening to the talking heads on BBC going on about the coal mine and deliberately avoiding the elephant in the room has prompted this petition calling for the sacking of the Coal boss from his role as “invaluable” Government advisor for the Nuclear Dump plans.
Government is due to make a decision on whether or not the Cumbria Coal Mine should go ahead. This would be the first deep coal mine in over 30 years. This area of the Irish Sea includes Marine Conservation Zones and other protections
The CEO of the proposed “Woodhouse Colliery” is Mark Kirkbride.
In 2019 Mark Kirkbride was appointed to the Government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.
Kirkbride’s “invaluable” role in that Committee involves: “scrutiny and provision of advice to BEIS (Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy) and RWM (Radioactive Waste Management) on activities relating to the continued development of a GDF safety case scrutiny and provision of advice to BEIS and RWM on GDF siting activities, including selection criteria, methods of investigation, and the timescale for carrying out site selection in the three rock types advise on new technologies that could be applicable to the development of a GDF including those in the mining and construction sectors and their potential impacts on a GDF programme”
Mark Kirkbride has recently provided costings to Government for the Delivery of a GDF (Nuclear Dump) including advice on enormous Tunnel Boring Machines from the same company (Herrenknecht) which would supply his coal mine. This is a direct conflict of interest.
Mark Kirkbride has clearly advised on the seismic blasting due to take place in July/August in the Irish Sea to “investigate” the complex geology for a deep nuclear dump. The enormous area of the Irish Sea in which the hugely damaging seismic testing would take place overlaps Kirkbride’s proposed coal mine.
We demand that Mark KIrkbride’s appointment to CoRWM is terminated. It is clear that the Government cannot take an objective decision on the Cumbrian coal mine while the CEO of said coal mine is employed by Government as an “invaluable” advisor to Delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility (Nuclear Dump). That advice has included seismic testing of the Irish Sea due to start any day. The Cumbrian Coal Mine and the Nuclear Dump Plan are Hand in Hand while Mark Kirkbride Remains as Advisor to Government. This is the dark heart of cronyism and it must stop.
We demand that Mark Kirkbride’s appointment to CoRWM is terminated
We demand that the Cronyism between Mark Kirkbride’s Coal interests and the Nuclear dump plans are investigated by an Independent Inquiry.
We demand a Moratorium on the Nuclear Dump (GDF) Plans
The following comment has been put on yesterday’s Channel 4 News Item on YouTube ….and appears to have been removed by Channel 4 – why ? As an experiment please could readers put a comment on the Ch4 YouTube article below pointing out that the Coal Boss Mark Kirkbride is advising government on mass void removal under the Irish Sea for a Geological Disposal Facility aka a deep nuclear dump. Lets see if any comments on this will be ‘allowed’.
“The Steel Industry does not need Cumbrian Coal – BUT – the Nuclear Industry sure as hell does! The first to oppose the coal mine were nuclear safety campaigners who advised back in 2017 that the coal was high ash and high sulphur ie not attractive to steel makers. The Coal Mine CEO has been employed by Government to advise the Nuclear Industry on the digging of big holes for heat generating nuclear wastes. The area in the frame for a deep nuclear dump happens to overlap the area of the coal mine called Offshore Area No 2 – ie the area nearest Sellafield which has largely no known coal resource . The latest is that the Irish Sea will be seismically tested for a deep nuclear dump this July – the coal mine Offshore Area No 2 is in the area being tested…no UK media has reported on this nuclear cronyism or the seismic testing due to start in July. The reporting on the coal mine has been facile with the original nuclear safety campaigners voices being drowned out in order to create a protective shield over the nuclear industry’s vested interests. https://www.change.org/p/save-the-whale-and-the-snail-stop-nuclear-waste-services-blasting-the-irish-sea
This letter is from Dave Greenwood former British Steel Geologist – talking about the plan for deep geological disposal of nuclear wastes but also applicable to the coal mine. Mark Kirkbride the CEO of the dangerous coal mine is bizarrely advising government on the even more dangerous latest deep nuclear dump plan.
Both West Cumbria Mining and Radioactive Waste Management (who are advised by one Mark Kirkbride, coal mine CEO) are keen to deflect any attention from the direct connections between the coal mine and the GDF (of which the CEO of WCM has already given the government “invaluable” advice on the digging of the big hole).
If the coal mine is the route whereby the GDF is reached both physically and by design then there is a direct connection. If the coal boss is advising RWM there is a direct connection (he is). If the same companies are being promoted by the coal boss to deliver the GDF as are on the WCM supplier list there is a direct connecton (they are). If the area in the frame for GDF is directly adjacent to the coal mine meaning that the same access tunnels could be used there is a direct connection (it is). If the voids made by the coal mine could be used for GDF rock spoil there is a connection (they could). If the borehole research for the coal mine is in the same area as the GDF there is a direct connection (it is). In the light of the COP26 discussions, in which Australia opposed the phasing out of coal, (bringing tears to Alok Sharma’s eyes), the role of the Australian, EMR Capital, via WCM, in this whole dodgy business is just the icing on the orchestrated mess which ends in Cumbria being lined up for a GDF directly alongside a coal mine.
This screenshot below is from RWM’s website – see how they avoid the question! Of course there is a connection – everyone can see it. Of course no one in their right mind would put nuclear waste in (or near) a coal mine (although they already tried at Keekle Head). All the connections of cronyism and use of the coal mine to facilitate the infrastructure for a GDF are undeniable and Radioactive Waste Management have not attempted to deny any of them. All they do is repeat the diversionary mantra that the two are “unconnected” in that heat generating waste will not be directly shovelled into the coal mine – OK so what about all the other questions ? Tell us the truth for once.
The following is a letter to MP Tim Farron, following a reply from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, to our unanswered questions.
Thank you for sight of the reply from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change.
It was good to hear the Minister say that “I would like to reassure your constituents that Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), the developer of the GDF, has absolutely no plans to consider coal mines for the geological disposal of radioactive waste, because they are simply not suitable. ” We agree that no one in their right mind – even those focussed on “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility would consider putting a GDF in the vicinity of a coal mine, let alone putting heat generating nuclear waste into a coal mine. This said we have to ask: Why is the coal mine slap bang in the middle of the Cumbria Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when this subsea methane rich and faulted area is clearly “not suitable” for a GDF ?
CRONYISM – THE MOST BLATANT EXAMPLE EVER IN UK HISTORY?
This question of the relationship between the GDF and the Coal Mine has added piquancy given that the said Coal Mine is the business interest of Mark Kirkbride who is advising the Minister on the GDF having been appointed to a number of key positions on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. The Minister does not address the thorny issue of coal/nuclear/private/public cronyism in her reply to you.
To reiterate: In 2011 the same year Charles Hendry MP was prematurely congratulating Cumbria Council on their ‘steps towards geological disposal of hot nuclear wastes’, he was also cutting the ribbon on one Mark Kirkbride’s venture as CEO at Itmsoil a Sussex based International company specialising in instrumentation measuring stress in large scale construction projects. Mark Kirkbride’s Itmsoil company went into Administration in 2014 in order to give ”protection from creditors.” Charles Hendry was the predecessor of Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, he was doing her job with the same responsibility for both the GDF and the Coal Authority.
FINANCIALLY VIABLE ?
The Minister states that the Coal Authority has to be satisfied that the coal mine must prove its financial viability before licences can be issued. We have previously made the point that the coking coal from this mine would not be the premium quality product first vaunted by WCM but would be of a high ash and high sulphur content and most likely unsaleable (as coking coal).
The latest accounts from West Cumbria Mining clearly state that the company is financially unviable. Staff have been laid off, the office in Haywards Heath has closed, the secretive financial backer is prepared to stand the cost until the end of the planning process and a third party funder says they are prepared to fund development, whatever that development is as we have not been given sight of it.
In fact No one has had sight of the latest licence applications from WCM as the Coal Authority is deferring to Mark Kirkbride’s wish not to make his development plans public. Given the relationship between WCM, CoRWM and with BEIS who have ultimate responsibility for both the Coal Authority and CoRWM this is an example of epic cronyism WCM have made much of employment of the local workforce but the Directors have a past record of using administration tactics to avoid paying creditors and then rise phoenix like into another incarnation. The amount of money spent by WCM on political lobbying (New Century Media/Tony Lodge – cosy visits by Mark Kirkbride with MP Trudy Harrison to BEIS) is in the £millions. It is clear that PR and political and financial chicanery is more important than keeping the WCM office staff on.
The paperwork has already been put into place by WCM to ensure that when it all goes pear shaped (or to plan?) WCM’s land and assets go to EMR Capital who are acting on behalf of other parties.
Further Questions include:
Why is Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine included slap bang in the middle of the Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when as the Minister has confirmed this subsea methane rich and heavily faulted area is clearly “not suitable” ?
Why has the Coal Authority not stepped in already Blocked the Licences and prevented an expensive public inquiry for a development that local planners no longer support and is financially insecure? WCM’s latest accounts indicate financial insecurity with staff lay offs to “cut costs.” The coal mine with its high ash and high sulphur coal is no longer/never was financially viable.
Finally and perhaps most importantly but most ignored, Sellafield’s infrastructure just five miles away is at serious risk from this coal mine (notwithstanding the nonchalance of the Office for Nuclear Regulation). On the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Silo for example has unknown leaks from unknown cracks in the concrete containment which is partly beneath ground. Sellafield have last month asked for help in finding and mitigating the leak of 550 gallons per day of radioactive liquor into groundwater beneath the site from unknown cracks. Fracking was halted because of earthquake risk and yet the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have stated that coal mining induced earthquakes are of a magnitude greater than fracking : “Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of smaller magnitude than the UK’s largest natural seismic events and those induced by coal mining”. Sellafield is on the Lake District Boundary Fault and WCM plans to abstract profligate amounts of ground water from their newly voided mine via the Byerstead Fault – no one knows how these faults relate to each other. Why aren’t lessons being learnt in the Sellafield area from the fracking experience in the Blackpool area when coal mine induced seismicity is of a magnitude greater than that of fracking?
Many thanks for persisting with our questions to Ministers.
Thank you for your email dated 11 May, to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, on behalf of your constituents, regarding the West Cumbria Mine. I am responding as this matter falls within my Ministerial portfolio.
The Coal Authority’s duties about licensing are set out in statute – in the 1994 Coal Industry Act – and to operate a coal mine an operator needs relevant rights and permissions including planning permission, a licence from the Coal Authority and to notify the Health and Safety Executive.
In general terms planning permission covers local social, economic and environmental aspects – i.e. is this the right place for this activity? whereas, a coal mining licence considers practicalities – can the mine operate in a way that is effective and financially underpinned to ensure that any land or property impacted can be compensated and the mine eventually closed in a safe and appropriate way. The Health and Safety Executive considers whether the operations can be undertaken safely.
When assessing an application for a coal mining licence, the Coal Authority are required to consider:
Whether the applicant can finance coal mining operations and related liabilities
The nature of the land or property that may be impacted by subsidence and that damage can be properly compensated by the operator.
That the operation will be carried out by properly experienced people In the case of West Cumbria Mining, this is what the Coal Authority will be assessing in consideration of the operator’s application to extend the term of their conditional licences. A conditional licence does not allow coal mining operations to commence (the purpose of a conditional licence is explained in the link above). As you are aware, planning permission for this mine is subject to an inquiry and it would not be appropriate to comment on the outcome of that but as outlined above, the Coal Authority assesses applications to it based on the duties set out in its enabling legislation.
To disclose the financial matters and commercial activity of the mine operator would be a breach of confidence to the clauses within their licence and their commercial interests. The Coal Authority also has a duty under S59 of the Coal Industry Act 1994 to ensure that it maintains confidentiality in respect of the business affairs of any individual or a business. Whilst the Coal Authority may be asked to input on aspects such as the history of the site or the quality of the coal, its processes are distinct and separate to that of planning and therefore any planning enquiry.
Given the Coal Authority’s duties under s59 of the Coal Industry Act, the Coal Authority have advised they would not disclose details of the application without the applicant’s consent.
Your constituents are also concerned that the coal mining licence applications are in some way linked to the process to find a site for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).
I would like to reassure your constituents that Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), the developer of the GDF, has absolutely no plans to consider coal mines for the geological disposal of radioactive waste, because they are simply not suitable.
The process to identify a site for a GDF is based on positive support from a willing community together with a suitable site. No sites have yet been selected. Two Working Groups (the first formal step in the process) have been formed in West Cumbria – in Allerdale and in Copeland – with more expected to be announced in England later this year. It is the Working Groups which will identify the initial search areas for a location for the GDF. The site selection process will stretch over several years and the decision to go ahead at a prospective location will ultimately be subject to a test of public support. It can only proceed if the community wishes it to proceed.
Thank you once again for taking the time to write. I hope you will find this reply helpful. Yours sincerely,
THE RT HON ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN MP
Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change