“Intense Opposition” to Coal Mine from Leading Environmentalist.

To: ‘developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk’ <developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk>
Subject: Objection to Planning Application Ref No. 4/17/9007


Objection to Planning Application Reference No 4/17/9007






I’m writing to express my intense opposition to the proposal from West Cumbria Mining regarding a new coking coal mine at Whitehaven. I believe there are many reasons to oppose this new development, but I shall focus on just four.




WCM has indicated that, at full annual production, the mine will extract:


2.43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal;

350,000 tonnes of ‘middlings’ coal;

150,000 tonnes of rock overburden.


As is now widely accepted, on account of accelerating climate change, the world needs no new hydrocarbons, and certainly no new coal. This climate change imperative is powerfully articulated internationally (through the Paris Agreement), through many national policy commitments (including the UK’s, which is committed to phasing out use of all coal by 2025), and local (including Cumbria County Council’s own policy statements in that regard).


WCM has argued that the metallurgical coal (which will be exported for use primarily for use in the steel industry internationally) should somehow be exempted from this gathering campaign to stop all new developments in coal and other hydrocarbons. That is illogical, not least because the 350,000 tonnes of middlings coal will be used in power stations (not in steel production), as may an unknown percentage of the 2.43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal if it fails to compete in today’s shrinking, highly volatile coking coal market.




As of today, WCM has failed to make available any detailed LCA (or ‘carbon footprint’) of prospective emissions arising from its mining activities over the next 50 years. As climate scientists have endlessly pointed out, when it comes to emissions, a tonne of CO2 is a tonne of CO2, whatever its origins.


As one of the principal environmental and economic externalities that would be generated by the mine, this is wholly unacceptable, leaving planning professionals, elected Members and the general public in the dark when it comes to weighing up this critical variable.




Over and above the kind of risks associated with mining operations of this kind (such as accidents and explosions, especially in geological areas prone to high levels of methane concentrations), it seems clear to me, looking at WCM’s Environmental Statement, that insufficient attention has been given to the possible risks associated with potential seismic activity.


I’m no expert in this area, but the fact that there are a number of well-documented examples from around the world of new seismic activity arising from coking coal operations, this is surely a matter of considerable material interest to planners. Given the very short distance (c.8k) between the proposed mine and Sellafield, this would seem to indicate, in the very least, that all local stakeholders should be made fully aware of the communications currently under way between WCM and the Office of Nuclear Regulation, as it relates to this critical issue.




With apparent irony, WCM has been keen to argue that this proposed development should be supported, amongst other reasons, on the grounds that it will support Cumbria County Council’s stated policy objective of helping to diversify the local economy away from its disproportionate dependence on the nuclear industry.

This is of course ridiculous! Fires and frying-pans come immediately to mind.


Jonathon Porritt

10th July 2017




Jonathon Porritt: Another Coal Mine for Donald Trump to Embrace!

Former Director of Friends of the Earth and Founder of Forum for the Future,  Jonathon Porritt has blasted the plan for a new coal mine near Sellafield.

In his blog today Jonathon Porritt writes:

Another Coal Mine for Donald Trump to Embrace!

Fellow Greenies: help me out here, please!

Which particular fossil fuel do we hate the most? Yes, that’s right: COAL. And which particular political party hates coal the most? Yes, that’s right: THE GREEN PARTY.

So what the hell is a Green Party candidate doing supporting the opening of the first coal mine in England for more than 30 years?! And not just in any old place – just five miles from the ticking nuclear time-bomb that is Sellafield!

I can’t seem to get hold of Jack Lenox (said Green Party candidate, who described himself as ‘a big fan’ of the proposal during the Copeland By Election campaign), but this is now pretty urgent. West Cumbria Mining has lodged an application to open an undersea coalmine to extract huge volumes of coking coal – primarily for use by the steel industry here in the UK, although the reality of it is that much of it will be exported.

There are just five weeks to go before Cumbria County Council (the most obsessively pro-nuclear local authority in the UK) rubber-stamps the application – and, hey presto, we’ll have a brand new coal mine just a few miles from one of the world’ most polluted and toxic nuclear sites.

And here’s where it gets even more mysterious. You might imagine that both Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth (with their honourable track record opposing both coal and nuclear) would be leading the charge against such insanity. Not a bit of it: in fact, near-total silence from both. The only organisation that is in full-on opposition mode is Radiation Free Lakeland – and, please, check out the details on its website.

As I understand it, the sole justification from a sustainability point of view is that the extracted coal will be coking coal, not thermal coal (for use in power stations), with some preposterous notion that this will apparently produce a lower carbon footprint than coking coal imported from other countries. Yet so far as I can tell, no detailed lifecycle analysis, both direct and indirect, has been done by West Cumbria Mining, so why would anyone swallow that particular pile of coking crap?

In cases like this, I often think I must be going mad, and that may well be true. There’s a lot of it around these days.

But in this instance, my mind keeps turning to a potential spoof-tweet from the Donald: “I am a big fan of coal and a big fan of nuclear. Putting the two of them together sounds GREAT!”

Radiation Free Lakeland has prepared a template letter of objection, to be sent to Cumbria County Council, which you can amend to fit your own level of anger, rage, incredulity or world-weary cynicism. But please do it!