Its Grime Up North

The following blog post is by What Lies Beneath Rattlechain Lagoon from 2017 and is reposted here with their kind permission. The article is a deep dive into the Marchon site and the Anhydrite Mine that West Cumbria Mining wanted to dewater in order to use as the route into the proposed coal mine under the Irish Sea. The Environment Agency objected to that plan of dewatering the Anhydrite mine into the Irish Sea as the mine water is extremely toxic. So WCM said they would go above the Anhydrite Mine drift tunnels instead of through to get around their dewatering problem. However WCM HAVE carried out extensive borehole explorations to test the hydrology and geology and who knows what impacts that has had on the honeycomb of mines below Whitehaven – including the acid producing Anhydrite mine. Although it is kept under wraps one of the biggest users of acids is the nuclear industry. The tanker of nitric acid that overturned last year on country roads was heading to Sellafield but not one mainstream media outlet shared that fact with the public.

It’s GRIME up North!

Posted on February 14, 2017 by swanny

Albright and Wilson’s stench extended beyond Oldbury in the West Midlands to up North in the coastal area of Whitehaven. The chemical firm Marchon Products Limited had been based in the town for many years producing raw materials for detergents, and then expanding onto a disused tar plant before “the Quakers” took over there in 1955 and made it a subsidiary producing the detergent raw material STTP- Sodium  Tripolyphosphate. Solway Chemicals Limited, another subsidiary were also producing sulphuric acid from this year from a plant next to the Marchon site. Their main concerns were liquid fertilisers and sodium laurel sulphate- a toothpaste foaming agent.

STTP needed phosphoric acid as an essential agent, produced by “the wet process”. This method is outlined from a 1955 Albright and Wilson publication “The manufacture and uses of phosphorus.”

A £5 million sulphuric acid plant extension completed in 1967 made Albright and Wilson the producer of one tenth of the UK’s total sulphuric acid output. 1968 saw the start up of a new wet phosphoric acid plant at Marchon, replacing the two previous ones. Levels of chemcials produced at the site are reported to have been 350,000 tons per annum of Sulphuric acid, 350,000 tons of cement, 165,000 tons phosphoric acid and 170,000 of STTP.

Whitehaven harbour was utilised to deliver raw materials using specially built vessels, which finally ceased in 1992.

But around the late 1960’s with AW’s disastrous loss making Long Harbour venture, the rot appeared to begin to set in for Marchon works as a site. In particular the environmental issues associated with other Albright and Wilson sites began to show a familiar pattern.

Pollution grime

Pollution from this large site appeared like a sore pimple from an outpouring of froth associated with the phosphate manufacture into the Irish Sea. More dangerous were heavy metal laden effluent from the phosphate rock impurities. For many years it had been a source of constant complaint from residents yet Albright and Wilson batted these away as it always did with talk of “jobs being put at risk” and claims it met allowed consents- all the same bullshit they also used when complaints were made about their Oldbury activities.

One of the most infamous associations with this site is the ground breaking prosecution of the company by Greenpeace– at a time when they were a genuine pollution busting environmental charity and not devoted to the pet cause of a failed US presidential candidate.

In 1990 they successfully took Albright and Wilson to court, winning a private prosecution brought under the new Water Act 1989. Whitehaven magistrates fined them a poultry £2000 and greenpeace costs awarded of £20,000.

But Albright and Wilson were always a company in total denial about their disgusting environmental record and the following whinging, whining trite garbage is what they published in Albright World at the time, desperately attempting to convince their workforce that Greenpeace were in the wrong and that these environmental assassins were trying to close the plant down when they attempted to block the discharge pipe into the

The comments made by works director in this article are utterly delusional, “We believe the sample taken was not representative of our normal discharge” he wailed, with “profound knowledge” ,appearing to blindly believe that any transgression of the law should not apply to them. We also get those invented no/low risk “calculations” of theirs, which we have also recently seen offered by Rhodia in their defence of a white phosphorus/phosphine factory fire which were not accepted by the Health and Safety Executive.

We have a similar airbrushed version of events offered by Hugh Podger in his “Albright and Wilson The Last 50 years” and “Marchon The Whitehaven Chemical works by Alan Routledge.” The latter book is fine if you enjoy black and white photos of machinery and people standing in front of them viewed through rose tinted glasses, but the garish reality of long standing environmental pollution is not part of the colour scheme.

When Greenpeace later blocked the pipe discharging the grime into the sea, they were totally justified in doing so, and if I had been around then knowing what I do now about this firms activities, then I would have joined them to happily be arrested for taking a stand.

When challenged on their environmental record, Albright and Wilson and then Rhodia, basically the very same people, consistently were in denial about their activities being harmful and their blind arrogance as “scientists” believed they knew better than anyone else.

An excellent account of the general air pollution coming out of Whitehaven around this time is documented in a Guardian article from 1988, which is archived on the Fluoride Action Network website. It is entitled “a host of roasted daffodils” and details how plants were turned to dust by the factory emissions, as well as the longstanding human health risks which are still there and will be for many decades.

“Marchon is licensed by the North West Water Authority to pour 93 tonnes of uranium into the Irish Sea every year, as well as 27 tonnes of cadmium and 9.3 tonnes of arsenic. Tests carried out by Greenpeace show that the composition of radioactivity found in Whitehaven harbour precludes it being from Sellafield. For five years now, scientists have claimed that cadmium has been a cause of genetic damage. Large doses can destroy cell manufacture and repair.”

“In April over 100 parents and schoolchildren suffered nausea and coughing when a cloud of sulphur dioxide acid leaked from the factory and descended on them as they were leaving nearby Kells infant school. In July, 200 cars in the factory carpark were pitted and stripped of paint after a second acid leak.”

All of this appears to be of a very similar story to the anecdotes of residents living around the Langley area, and also the denials of an operator who appeared to care little about the health concerns associated with the toxic chemicals which it produced. That it “provides jobs for the area” that would otherwise not be there appears to be the standard political shillers comment for justifying appalling and blind eye turning health and safety faux pas.

Of the manner in which it treated its workforce:

“Only relatively recently, local people have become determined to know more about the effects the plant is having on their health. But employees are frightened to speak out for fear of losing their jobs in an area of high unemployment.

One former employee said he found that childhood asthma returned when he began working in the factory’s acid plant. He says the company never admitted that his work was the cause of his disease, but equally it did not insist he return to his job. The man, who still wishes to remain anonymous despite having left, interpreted this as a sign that the company knew it would be difficult to deny his work was the cause. But there are constant denials by the company when the plant is blamed for ill health.”

What one can also take from this is the not uncommon observation concerning how Albright and Wilson treated its community with contempt from a resident who states in the article

“The medical profession has not been remarkably active in trying to identify the source of high asthma, foetal mortality, and genetic abnormality rates which have been found in and around the town. During the past five years rare syndromes have been found in babies born in Whitehaven and nearby Mirehouse. These diseases have led to either mental disorders, cleft palates, cysts, or facial abnormalities. There are also abnormal levels of severe spasticity, premature births, the transposition of body vessels, poor speech, and acute myloid leukaemia…..

….Sheila Smith, who runs the family advice centre in nearby Monkwray, said: ‘It’s the accountability which in some ways concerns me more than the pollution. The thing we have found quite amazing is that Albright and Wilson is a totally closed organisation.

‘Trying to get the company involved in the community is impossible. You just meet with closed doors. As a result, there’s an awful feeling of apathy and despair. The health authority also turns a blind eye, even though this part of the town has the highest death rate from heart disease among women in the northern region, and is among the worst for general health.’

One can perhaps see why after the Greenpeace incident and concerns like this, Albright and Wilson attempted a charm PR offensive with “open days“, which of course, were more like an advertisement for what they made than a factory tour of any real benefit to the put upon polluted.

Political grime.

As at their Oldbury headquarters in the West Midlands, it is apparent that Albright and Wilson at Whitehaven were well represented in political circles. The May/June 1986 edition of Albright World reported that the new mayor of Copeland- the borough in which the works sat, was an employee, and not only that but boasted that he was the fourth employee mayor of that pocket borough to hold the title!

There may well have been others that followed him, but how can anyone really believe that having top councillors onside- especially in matters relating to planning and environmental concerns was not likely to be a very beneficial arrangement for all concerned- with protecting the company polluter?

And then there is the former MP – John Cunningham- now “Baron Cunningham of Felling”. Between 1970-1983 he was MP for the Whitehaven constituency, which then became the Copeland constituency where he would serve another 22 years as the elected representative.  He deserves a special mention in how a political friend “who never worked for the company” was actually working for it for many years.

The following article appeared in Albright World, where the then fledgling Labourite was joined on a factory tour of the works by the useless former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan who held talks with union officials and managers- Orwell’s “man to pig and pig to man” comes to mind here .

“He told them that Dr Cunningham, who was his Parliamentary Private Secretary during Mr Callaghan’s government, was “constantly preaching about A+W’s virtues and is a very good advertisement for you”

With this type of ear to the top man, one wonders what the good doctor was actually diagnosing him with about the wretched company, but it is plain to see in the subsequent years that he persisted in this “advertisement” shillery for AW.

“Bottom’s up” champagne socialist

In 1980, he would go on to become a paid “industrial policy adviser” for Albright and Wilson, a title he held throughout his time as shadow environment secretary until he  became Minister for Agriculture, fisheries and food under the odious Blair administration. So back to pouring “advertisements” into the ear of the premier. Of course this would be short lived, as Albright and Wilson by now were  in terminal decline, so his advice cannot have been of much use in the 80’s 


With takeover assured, Rhodia did not waste much time in flogging off the Whitehaven site to “Huntsman”- another metamorphosising pillock of a chemical manufacturer. In June 2005, time was called on the entire site, as it shut down for good, with Rhodia diverting its operations abroad.

There are some interesting footnotes to the fallen polluting behemoth of Whitehaven available on the internet.

An excellent urban exploration of the way in which Albright and Wilson/Rhodia and its associates left the site before demolition, almost as though it was Chenobyl can be found HERE.  Another on the excellent 28 days later website gives a ghostly tour of the abandoned factory.

from 28 days later- a discarded map of the AW Whitehaven site

It is clear that this post apocalyptic scenario is one very familiar with Albright and Wilson and the manner in which it operated as a company- especially at its demise into the French hands of Rhodia.

Uncharacterised chemicals of all types and colours appear to be scattered everywhere mixing freely with mould alongside office equipment and personal identification tags serving as wafers in the toxic cream. How little the company must have valued the personal data protection of its staff to leave the site such as this!

freedom of information request from Sarah Turnbull in 2012 asks the following.

Clearly the Environment agency will be monitoring this area for many years to come  this, one of the many Albright’s bastards.

From the perspective of an ex worker at the site there is a rather whimsical ditty concerning the demise of the works at Whitehaven which can be found below, but it is somewhat unusual for the usually brainwashed ex workers of an Albright and Wilson company to be somewhat critical of both the employer and the union facilitating the destruction of the operation. It is quite clear that longstanding Marchon workers resent Albright and Wilson and Rhodia’s control of operations, as it began to unravel. Ultimately, with the type of chemicals that it made and which will no doubt persist for several decades, what one “couldn’t believe what they’d done” is how they managed to get away with it for so long.

And so to the inevitable talk of “regeneration” from toxic crap. We have this document entitled “West Whitehaven Draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) February 2012″, which can be read at the link below.


So when politicians are no longer able to spin their PR about jobs being vital from polluting industry, thus they like to play lego land and  still pretend that the toxic legacy does not appear by wanting to build “quality homes” on or near to contaminated land. We do however get the truth of the past in this document about this dirty polluting shambles of a chemical site too late from this self serving council, now that its chemical factory paymasters are no longer  there in situ.

“The public perception of the area locally is often poor due to the recent history of the industrial / chemical activities of the Marchon plant.  The environmental impacts of the production processes resulted in unpleasant odours, gas clouds, and residue deposits on cars and gardens, as well as ground water contamination leading to foam licks and radioactive deposits in the sea.  Visual impacts, noise and lighting pollution affected local residential amenity as did the heavy road traffic generated by the many tanker trips taking raw materials to the site from the harbour.”

Now when did Jack Cunningham and co ever admit to any of this at the time?

There is a parliamentary by-election in the Copeland constituency looming with the departure of Cunningham’s successor as MP there Jamie Reed who is taking up the position of  “head of development and community relations” at the Sellafield Nuclear plant in the area. One could strongly argue that this former PR man for the company never left the job during his time as an MP. Perhaps voters should look very closely at the cv’s of the candidates for any grimy links with longstanding pollution.

Read more at Rattlechain Lagoon

Letter in the Morning Star Exposes Links Between Subsea Coal Mine and Subsea Nuclear Dumping

The following message has come from peace campaigner Rae Street:

The UK Morning Star published this letter on 31st December

All the best for a peaceful New year to everyone and looking towards a nuclear free future,


Dear Editor,

In response to your recent correspondents, I would say that the proposed coal mine in Cumbria shows that the government is not serious about tackling the climate crisis. Yes, it would provide jobs in the area but a much better answer is to provide jobs in the infrastructure for genuine sustainable energy such as wind turbines and solar panels – according to the Local Government Association that could create 6,000 ‘green’ jobs in Cumbria by 2030. Alok Sharma, who led the UN Conference on Climate Change in Glasgow said:

*85% of coal produced is for export

*Two major UK steel producers have said they won’t use this coal as they are moving to hydrogen

*The government’s own Climate Change Committee has said the mine would increase UK CO2 emissions by 0.4 million tonnes with clear implications for our legally-binding carbon emissions budgets.

The mine will be a backward step in UK climate action – and will damage the UK’s international climate reputation. Once again it would be the government saying to other nations, ‘Do as I say, not as I do’.

And course with this government there is always an ulterior motive. The CEO of the coal mine is Mark Kirkbride, who has now been appointed to the Government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to advise on the UK Government’s nuclear dump plans. He was the advisor for the hugely damaging seismic blasting which took place in August in the Irish Sea to ‘investigate’ the complex geology for a nuclear dump. This blasting is also likely to have had a disastrous effect on the sea wild life. The area of the Irish sea where the seismic blasting took place overlaps the area of the proposed coal mine.. As the Coal Mine Planning Inspector warned in his recommendation to the government stated: the risk of a seismic event cannot be ruled out’. So the CEO of a seismic inducing coal mine near Sellafield is employed as an advisor on radioactive waste burial in a Geological Disposal Facility. So not only will the coal mine produce huge carbon emissions, but it looks as if the deep voids which would come with the coal mining are being sought for a radioactive waste dump with potential earthquakes in the same area.

Yours sincerely,

Rae Street

Sack Cumbrian Coal Mine Boss from Government Advisor Role for Nuclear Dump

Mark Kirkbride Joins the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – 2019

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


Mark Kirkbride – CoRWM

Euronews – The UK is searching the sea for a nuclear dump site and the risks to marine life are huge

Key Role of Coal Boss, Mark Kirkbride in Nuclear Dump Plans remains Taboo Subject in Press

Read the full article here

Thanks to Whitehaven News and local press for exposing the fact that rock characterisation boreholes have already been drilled at the ‘Low Level Waste Repository’ to prepare the way for Near Surface Disposal of Intermediate Level Wastes. We note the industry response: ” this study is separate from ongoing activities to find a suitable site for a Geological Disposal Facility”

This quite frankly is a big fat lie. The coal boss Mark Kirkbride, with his hat on as key member of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management, has provided costings to Government on “co-location” of Near Surface and Geological Disposal. In other words the Near Surface Disposal (NSD) facility for Intermediate Level Wastes would be up to 120 metres underground in silos. The infrastructure of the NSD above ground facilities, including security, access and the like would be shared with a Geological Disposal dump to “cut costs.”

Here below is the Press Release we sent out to all national and local press as you can see the “co-location” issue is highlighted as is coal boss, Mark Kirkbride’s role as key advisor. The media, with the exception of the Isle of Man have shown remarkable solidarity in omitting any reference to the conflict of interest and cronyism regarding coal boss, Mark Kirkbride’s 2019 Government appointed role in the push for nuclear waste dumping.



Costs for the underground burial of nuclear wastes are due to be published shortly by the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM), campaigners have learnt. The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) have tasked the CEO of West Cumbria Mining and CoRWM member, Mark Kirkbride with providing costings for geological and near surface disposal of high and intermediate level nuclear wastes.

Ever since the appointment of Mark Kirkbride to CoRWM in 2019, nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland have argued that there is a deep conflict of interest at the heart of government on this issue. Government on the one hand will have the final say on Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine business interests and on the other hand are employing Mr Kirkbride to provide costings and “invaluable” advice on the burial of nuclear wastes. The Geological Disposal Facility is a major infrastructure project and is described by BEIS as “one of the most significant long-term environmental protection projects ever undertaken in the UK.”

Peaceful Demo at Drigg – on the Edge of the Lake District

Supporters of Radiation Free Lakeland’s new campaign Lakes Against Nuclear Dump (L.A.N.D) held a peaceful demonstration outside the Mid-Copeland Community Partnership “drop-in” at Drigg on Friday 11th March. L.A.N.D said “Drigg residents have been surprised to learn that 16 research boreholes 120 metres deep have already been drilled without any democratic oversight at the Low Level Waste Repository. The boreholes are part of a “feasibility study” for possible Near Surface Disposal of Intermediate Level Nuclear Wastes. Government policy would have to be amended for Near Surface Disposal to take place. L.A.N.D say “Locals at Drigg have every right to be angry about this. A map released under Freedom of Information as well as showing recently acquired long lease of the Drigg dunes shows the mining/mineral rights owned by the NDA and clearly shows a linked route from the Low Level Waste Repository area to the Inshore area of the Irish Sea. The mining and mineral rights mean that the NDA are able to extract rock without reference to anyone else.”

Freedom of Information answers have revealed that: “The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) has asked LLWR to conduct a feasibility study to assess the capacity of the LLWR site as part of their wider studies on near-surface disposal.

.. It includes the drilling of new characterisation

and monitoring boreholes that reach a maximum depth of 120 metres. All of

which are within the LLWR site boundary.”

“Co-Locate” to “cut costs”

The Nuclear Decommissioning Authority have stated in their 2020 position paper on Near Surface Disposal that “The assessment of disposal costs has been made on the assumption that a nearer- surface disposal facility ..would be co-located with a GDF.” This is say L.A.N.D a breach of trust regarding the nuclear waste plans and they have

sent a 30 page report “Nuclear Waste’s Shifting Sands On the Lakeland Fringe” to Allerdale and Copeland Community Partnership members with a letter urging them to withdraw from the “Community Partnership” which they have branded “fraudulent”.

“Protected” ?

The Mid-Copeland Community Partnership “Drop-In” at Drigg on Friday told Drigg locals that the 16 research boreholes drilled without any democratic scrutiny “are nothing to do with us.” Meanwhile, coal boss, Mark Kirkbride’s costings for the Near Surface and Geological Disposal of Intermediate and High Level Nuclear Wastes are due to be published any day now on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management’s website. A decision on Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine is also due to be made by Secretary of State Michael Gove. In another twist of logic both the subsea coal mine and the subsea GDF would be within the West of Copeland area of the Irish Sea designated as a Marine Conservation Zone by Michael Gove in 2019.


New Report by L.A.N.D

Appointment of Mark Kirkbride to CorWM

Freedom of Information request/answers re rock characterisation boreholes for Near Surface Disposal

West of Copeland Marine Conservation Zone designated by Michael Gove in 2019

2020 Position Paper on Near Surface Disposal – co-location with GDF to cut costs

Flying Underwater

“Flying Underwater – Black Guillemots at St Bees”. The last nesting place of Black Guillemots in England is St Bees where the first deep coal mine in 30 years will soon be decided upon.

The Coal Mine planning inspector Stephen Normington will, any day now, be making his recommendation to government (the same government who have appointed the coal boss as nuclear dump advisor).

Then the final decision will be with Secretary of State Michael Gove on whether or not to open a new coal mine under the Marine Conservation Zone off St Bees and just five miles from Sellafield.

Concerns, aside from climate, raised by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole since 2017, regarding seismic, nuclear and marine impacts have been well and truly ‘talked over’ despite our vehement campaigning.

The narrowed narrative allowed in the media (with rare exceptions) and siezed upon by NGOs (with rare exceptions) has been to focus myopically on climate ignoring all other arguably more important impacts such as seismicity, Sellafield, and putting the infrastructure in place for a deep nuclear dump.

The climate impacts of this coal mine would be the same anywhere – but this is not anywhere and the CEO of the coal mine, Mark Kirkbride, key advisor to government on nuclear dump plans, is not your ordinary everyday coal boss.

#KeepCumbrianCoalintheHole #LakesAgainstNuclearDump

Licence to Drill? Yes No Problem. Why Not Make it for 24 Hours a Day…

Coal Mine “exploratory” Drilling Rig off St Bees Head

A letter sent today to the Coal Mine Planning Inspector

Dear Mr Normington,

Radiation Free Lakeland would like to bring this correspondence to your attention.  The correspondence is from the Marine Management Organisation to West Cumbria Mining and It is in  regard to exploratory borehole drilling by West Cumbria Mining.  As you know the St Bees marine area is a sensitive receptor.  It is for this reason that the small quarry at St Bees head, Birkhams Quarry “has key operational conditions imposed by Cumbria County Council planning permission 4/02/9022 which affords protection to sea birds by prohibiting blasting from within the bird-breeding season; Condition 21 which establishes a noise limit of 45dB(A) (normal speaking volume) at the nearest properties and Condition 14 which restricts operations to 08.00-18.00 hours on Mondays to Fridays.”   The exploratory drilling operations by West Cumbria Mining also had conditions placed upon them but unlike the operators of Birkhams Quarry,  WCM have sought to and it seems succeeded in overriding planning conditions placed upon them by the Marine Management Organisation in respect of subsea drilling.  In May 2017 “WCM requested that in order to complete works within the summer period, condition 5.2.12 be removed in order to allow drilling operations to take place 24 hours a day. Whilst the MMO appreciates that this would allow progress to be made far more quickly with drilling, there have been a number of concerns raised again regarding the potential for 24 hour drilling to disrupt sensitive receptors in the vicinity of the drilling rig. These largely relate to the sensitive receptors mentioned above and the uncertainty surrounding the impact of disruption to such receptors from vibration and sound pressure changes in the water column.”

WCM have been ruthless in pushing for restrictions to be lifted on their exploratory borehole drilling and on the 8th Sept 2017 they accidently hit a gas methane pocket off St Bees Head while doing their exploratory drilling. This necessitated a call out of the Irish Coast Guard.  

It is terrifying that WCM now say they “may not need a licence” at all from the Marine Management Organisation should Secretary of State Michael Gove  approve the plan to drill for coal under the IrishSea just five miles from Sellafield.

With kind regards

Marianne Birkby
Radiation Free Lakeland (who run the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign),mile%20from%20St%20Bee’s%20Head.

Attatchments: MMO correspondence with WCM from 2017 on allowing borehole regulations to be overidden
Birkhams Quarry, St Bees – Cumbria County Council document from 2015 – Quarry is strictly regulated

Climate Noise Has Obscured Nuclear Dump Cronyism and Nuclear Impacts of Coal Mine – Why Bother With Traffic Light System for Induced Earthquakes?

The following letter has just been sent to the Coal Mine Planning Inspector Mr Stephen Normington following a letter from the Rt Hon Greg Hands, Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change (this Govnt department appointed the coal mine boss as “invaluable” nuclear dump advisor).

Dear Planning Inquiry Inspector Mr Stephen Normington,

Happy New Year to you and yours.

We, Radiation Free Lakeland (who run the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign) are aware that you will shortly be making a recommendation to the Secretary of State on West Cumbria Mining’s coal mine plan.

We would like to draw your attention to a letter (attached) we have received from the Rt Hon Greg Hands, Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change.  The reply is to our letter requesting that, should the coal mine be approved by government, then a seismic Traffic Light System at least as stringent as that for the oil and gas industry should be part of the conditions imposed.   The empirical evidence (presented by Radiation Free Lakeland at the Planning Inquiry) is unequivocal in its findings that coal mining produces earthquakes of far greater magnitude and frequency than that of fracking.  Despite this Greg Hands MP states that there will be no Traffic Light System for the coal mine.

In tandem with the absence of a seismic Traffic Light System is the outrageous allowance of 6mm/s Peak Particle Velocity as agreed by the Inquiry’s Rule 6 Parties and Developer for ground movements as a result of the deep mining proposed.   As you will be aware the PPV at which “receptors”  will make complaints is 1mm/s.

An observer of the bulk of the Planning Inquiry would have had no idea of the uniquely dangerous sense of place regarding the planned coal mine.  If this same coal mine was anywhere in the world the climate impacts would be the same.  But this coal mine is not anywhere in the world.  It is five miles from Sellafield, the worlds riskiest nuclear waste site,  under the arguably most radioactively contaminated sea in the world and directly beneath the radioactively contaminated Cumbrian Mud Patch.

You will see In his reply to us the Minister answers a question we did not ask – namely the use of the coal mine as a nuclear dump – no one in their right mind would think of using a coal mine as a nuclear dump, our concerns lay with the undeniable connections/cronyism between the coal mine and the proposed Geological Disposal Facility.

The Government’s refusal to consider a seismic Traffic Light System for the earthquake inducing coal mine is a case in point. 

Mark Kirkbride the CEO of West Cumbria Mining was appointed in 2019 as an “invaluable” adviser to the Government (Committee on Radioactive Waste Management) on the digging of big holes for a Geological Disposal Facility for Heat Generating Nuclear Wastes and for shallower Near Surface Disposal of Low and Intermediate Level Nuclear Wastes.   

We are painfully aware, as no doubt is government nuclear dump advisor Mark Kirkbride, that a seismic Traffic Light System for an earthquake inducing deep undersea coal mine would also impact negatively on the facilitation of an even deeper hole for a GDF. The Irish Sea area adjacent to the coal mine is in the frame for a GDF.

We urge you to take all these related issues into consideration and emphatically advise refusal for the deep coal mine which is far more than the sum of its (more widely reported) climate/jobs parts.   Should this coal mine go ahead the people and environment of Cumbria and the planet WILL be exposed to deep radiological, immediate and irreversible impacts that will make the more widely reported and not to be sneezed at climate impacts pale into insignificance.

The whole thing feels like a massive stitch up in which the climate issues have been used as a smoke screen to hide the nuclear impacts of this coal mine.  If Leonardo DiCaprio (of “Don’t Look Up” fame)  thinks climate campaigners have it bad he should walk a mile in the shoes of nuclear safety campaigners!

Please ensure the safety of Cumbria and the planet by emphatically advising refusal for this out of control deep coal mine five miles from Sellafield.

Thank You.

Yours sincerely,

Marianne Birkby
Radiation Free Lakeland who run the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign

“We may not need a licence to drill”

Photo by Egor Kamelev on
Fulmar – photo by Dorothy Bennett

The following request has been sent to the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) in the light of West Cumbria Mining’s statement that they “might not need a licence from the MMO” should government approve the plan. Do they know something we don’t given the proximity to Sellafied, the radioactively contaminated Cumbrian Mud Patch (above the mine) and the ecologically sensitive marine protected area of the Irish Sea:

Dear Marine Management Organisation,

West Cumbria Mining have said that “we may not need a licence from the Marine Management Organisation” to mine for coal under the Irish Sea in an area of multiple conservation protections.

Has a pre-application submission been made by West Cumbria Mining for Woodhouse Colliery?

If this is the case I request sight of:

1. Pre-application submission/s from West Cumbria Mining
2. All Replies from the Marine Management Organisation to West Cumbria Mining

Yours faithfully,

Marianne Birkby

Cumbria Coal Mine Would Cause Earthquakes – its Official

The video is a very brief summary from Radiation Free Lakeland of the induced earthquake and subsidence expected due to the coal mine.  Sellafield, the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site is just five miles away. What could go wrong

The more people who give a mention to this the more likely the Inspector will include it as a reason to ditch this coal mine in his recommendations to Government

You can Take Action here

All best wishes and more power to all our collective elbows!

Radiation Free Lakeland / Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole


CALL OUT FOR ARTISTS who would like to join our Giant Postcard to the Planning Inspector . Poems, photographs and paintings include the beauty and wildlife of the West Coast of Cumbria. Guest artist is the internationally renowned Julian Cooper. As well as the beauty of West Cumbria, nuclear impacts of this coal mine which would be just five miles from Sellafield are also featured in the artworks. The public inquiry into the coal mine will commence on 7th September. It looks like it will be a virtual inquiry (and the details of how to attend are below).

We are going to put together a giant postcard of the artworks produced by our Postcards from Cumbria group to send to the Planning Inspector . The postcard will be a visual reminder of the beauty of Cumbria and what the coal mine could devastate. The coal mine could be a catalyst for a nuclear sacrifice zone. Induced seismicity in the area of the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site is inevitable should the Inspector recommend approval for a deep mine so close to Sellafield.

A Giant Postcard from Cumbria will be sent to the Inspector showing a diversity of amazing artworks, photographs and even poems produced by a group of artists of all ages, including professionals and schoolchildren . If you know of anyone who would like to join the Giant Postcard from Cumbria and have artworks included showing the beauty and character especially of the West Coast of Cumbria – please ask them to get in contact ( or to join the group .


Best Wishes

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and Postcards from Cumbria

INFO on the forthcoming Planning Inquiry below from Cumbria County Council

Applicant’s name: West Cumbria Mining Ltd

Reference: APP/H0900/V/21/3271069I refer to the above planning application and the decision by the Secretary of State to call-in theproposal to be determined by Public Inquiry.The inquiry will commence on 7th September at 10am.

It will be conducted as a virtual event,live streamed on the Planning Inspectorate’s YouTube channel .The procedure to be followed is set out in the the Town and Country Planning (InquiriesProcedure) (England) Rules 2000, as amended. The Inspector is Stephen Normington.Please note that anyone wishing to view the live stream only does not need to pre-register with the Planning Inspectorate.Documents relating to the application can be viewed/downloaded on the Council website via: and more specifically to the Inquiry

Anyone wishing to participate more fully in the inquiry and take an active part in proceedings mustmake that interest known to the Planning Inspectorate Case Officer as soon as possible prior tothe Inquiry, either by email or telephone after reading the Inquiry Attendance Information set out below.The Case Officer contact at the Planning Inspectorate: Elizabeth Humphrey –; tel 0303 444 5384. Inquiry

Attendance Information

Before deciding whether to take an active part in the Inquiry, you need to think carefully about the

points you wish to make. All written submissions from application/call in stages will be taken into account by the Inspector and re-stating the same points won’t add any additional weight to them.If you feel that taking part in the Inquiry is right for you in whatever capacity, you can participate in a number of ways: To take part using video, participants will need to have access to Microsoft Teams (via an app orweb browser). This link gives further information on how to use this. Alternatively you can take part by telephone. Please note that joining by telephone to the 020 number that will be used will incur charges. You should check actual rates with your provider. you wish to just observe the event, you should make that clear in your response to the Case Officer. If you wish to take an active part in the proceedings, please make clear in your responseto the Case Officer whether you wish only to appear at the Inquiry and make a statement, or whether you would also wish to ask questions on particular topics.

If you want to take an active part but feel unable to for any reason, and/or the points you want to make are not covered in the evidence of others, consider whether someone else could raise them on your behalf.Registered participants in whatever capacity will receive individual joining instructions, providing details of any requirements, guidance and support whether joining by Teams or telephone. You should note that the event will be recorded by the Planning Inspectorate for training and quality assurance purposes.The decision will be published on

Yours faithfully

Mr Paul Haggin Manager Development Control and Sustainable Development – Cumbria County Council