Over the Easter period, the Coal Authority quietly awarded the controversial Cumbrian Coal Mine new “conditional” licences. The developer West Cumbria Mining’s original conditional licences granted in 2013 were valid for 8 years. W.C.M applied for a variation to their original conditional licences in January 2021. The new applications were approved on April 13th 2022.
Nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland who run the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign have lobbied tirelessly for details of the new licence applications to be released to public view. Despite extensive correspondence between the group and the Coal Authority including an intervention by MP Tim Farron and an internal review, all details of the licences were refused public scrutiny claiming ‘commercial sensitivity.’ Campaigners say that what can be seen is that one of the new licences awarded includes Offshore Area 2, an area of the Irish Sea Marine Conservation Zone off St Bees. The nuclear safety group say that “according to the British Geological Survey most of this area offshore of St Bees and extending towards Sellafield has no known coal reserves” They go on to say that “the awarding of coal licences to the developer ahead of the decision by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove suggests that the Inspector has recommended approval and smacks of the most blatant cronyism”.
The group point out the close relationships between the former Coal Authority Director Stephen Dingle who appointed Sir Nigel Thrift to Chair of the Committee of Radioactive Waste Management, and coal boss Mark KIrkbride, described by Sir Nigel Thrift as an “invaluable” colleague on the Committee tasked with advising government on what to do with the UK’s growing nuclear waste problem.
Marianne Birkby founder of Radiation Free Lakeland said: “there is only one thing worse than opening a new coal mine and that is opening a new coal mine near Sellafield whose boss is advising the government on the digging of big holes for heat generating nuclear wastes”
Coal Mine developers, West Cumbria Mining have asked the *Coal Authority for new licences. Do Not Rubber Stamp the Developer’s Licence to Drill.
*The Coal Authority report to the Dept of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Kwasi Kwarteng MP is the Secretary of State
BLOCK WEST CUMBRIA MINING’S LICENCE TO DRILL
Leading Cumbrian Councillors had already reassessed their previous unanimous support for the first deep coal mine in decades in the UK and voted “No.” Through this No vote they have voiced their opposition alongside leading academics, scientists, politicians, the public and many organisations.
The reasons for saying No to new licences for West Cumbria Mining are not just “compelling” as Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng MP has stated, they are overwhelming.
There is zero need for a public inquiry at the expense of the public purse. The mine could be stopped tomorrow. All it would take is for the Coal Authority to block the developers new applications for a Licence to Drill. It is shocking that details of the new licence applications are being kept secret and from public scrutiny despite Freedom of Information requests from nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland.
CLIMATE AND NUCLEAR SAFETY …OR RECKLESSNESS?
A block on the developer’s new applications for a Licence to Drill would not only save the public purse the huge expense of a public inquiry it would also send a strong message to the UK and our international neighbours that the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who are responsible for the Coal Authority, are committed to both climate and nuclear safety.
While the significant climate impacts of this coal mine would be EXACTLY the same if this development had been proposed anywhere else in the UK, this coal mine is NOT JUST ANYWHERE in the UK. The mine would be largely subsea off the West Coast of Cumbria, would extend to within five miles of the WORLD”S RISKIEST NUCLEAR WASTE SITE and be directly under a massive nuclear waste dump known as the Sellafield Mud Patch.
COAL MINE UNDER AN EXISTING NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP?
Sellafield has been pumping eight million litres of “low level” radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea every day. It been doing that for decades and nuclear wastes (military and ‘civil’) still continue to arrive in West Cumbria. The nuclear waste discharge pipeline out to the Irish Sea is in constant use. The coal mine developers say there would be “EXPECTED SUBSIDENCE” of the Irish Sea bed. Recent reports have indicated this would most likely result in the resuspension of decades worth of Sellafield’s radioactive wastes now largely (but not completely) immobilised in the Irish Sea bed. Radioactive wastes including plutonium would be resuspended back into the water column, to ours and to neighbouring shores. The one thing not to do with a radioactive waste dump is disturb it.
COAL MINE ADJACENT TO A NEW HIGH LEVEL NUCLEAR WASTE DUMP?
The mine itself would be adjacent to the area being promoted as a “possible” Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes under the Irish Sea. The CEO of the coal mine Mark Kirkbride has been appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to advise government on “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF). The proposed coal mine would make a void of 136 million square metres. Would this handy hole be used to dump mountains of rock spoil excavated for a GDF from neighboring rocks? What destabilising impact would this have on the neighbouring rocks? Is there a massive unresolvable conflict of interest at the heart of the forthcoming coal mine public inquiry? The final decision about the climate and nuclear dump-wrecking mine will rest with the government – the same government who have appointed the coal mine boss to position of top government nuclear dump advisor (for highly active wastes).
FARCICAL PUBLIC INQUIRY?
These questions (and more) should, but are not likely to be within the remit of a forthcoming public inquiry focussing on planning rather than key issues of governance and nuclear safety.
The public have already paid out £millions for this coal mine, to be precise, £2.5 Million in Heritage Lottery Funds for the Haig Colliery Museum which was then handed over to the developers for £1.
This is a coal mine that the public would keep paying for in more than money and climate impacts – the many headed hydra of both a slow burn and immediate nuclear catastrophe are overwhelming.
There is no credible case for this mine either on the basis of finance (no market), climate (flies in face of COP26) or arguably the most serious concern, nuclear safety (under decades of nuclear waste, undermining the geology near the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site Sellafield).
BLOCK WEST CUMBRIA MINING’S LICENCE TO DRILL!
DO IT NOW
BEIS Ministerial Responsibility for the Coal Authority, BEIS also responsible for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management where coal boss Mark Kirkbride is a key member.
“Ministerial responsibility 11. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is accountable to Parliament for the activities and performance of the Authority and it is proposed that any new Minister with responsibility for the Authority will carry out a visit to the Authority within six months of taking up appointment to learn about the role of the Authority and its functions. Typically, we would expect the chair and chief executive to meet with the minister at least annually. 12. Specific responsibilities include: approving the Authority’s overall strategic objectives and the policy and performance frameworkwithin which the Authority operates (as set out in this framework document and associated documents keeping Parliament informed about the Authority’s performance approving the amount of grant-in-aid/grant/other funds to be paid to the Authority, and securing Parliamentary approval carrying out responsibilities specified in the Act including appointments to the board, determining the terms and conditions of board members, consenting to the appointment of the, approval of terms and conditions of staff (Including pay) in accordance with the latest pay guidance laying of the annual report and accounts before Parliament”
Sellafield Radioactive Discharge on the Irish Sea Bed directly beneath the coal mine plan and question of ‘Who is Responsible for Safety of the Discharged Nuclear Wastes?’ is subject to complaint being dealt with by the Information Commissioner
Who is Responsible for Radioactive Waste on the Irish Sea Bed – Call from Nuclear Free Local Authorities NFLA troubled by the UK Communities Minister not ‘calling in’ the decision over a deep underground coal mine in West Cumbria
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 (Wastwater@protonmail.com) or to join the group .https://www.facebook.com/groups/268440254181433
THANK YOU to ALL THE ARTISTS !
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.
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 – email@example.com; tel 0303 444 5384. Inquiry
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. https://support.office.com/enus/teams. 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. https://www.gov.uk/call-chargesIf 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 https://acp.planninginspectorate.gov.uk/
Mr Paul Haggin Manager Development Control and Sustainable Development – Cumbria County Council
below is our evidence to the public inquiry – please do feel free to use this as inspiration for your own letters to the Planning Inspectorate.
Our evidence is not a full list by any means – for example we havn’t mentioned the re-routing of the Wainwright Coast to Coast or the fact that this area is the last breeding place of in England of the black guillemot.
In conclusion we have said :
“Radiation Free Lakeland strongly urge the Planning Inspector to consider issues which he may initially have felt were outside the scope of this Inquiry but which have been central to our concerns from the outset. Issues including nuclear safety and drinking water quality. Issues which may in the final analysis be of even more overwhelming concern than climate impacts. Nuclear impacts would be catastrophic for the immediate and long term future and viability of not only Cumbria’s health and safety but the health and safety of our neighbouring countries. Our final thought is to leave the image of our first thought upon seeing West Cumbria Mining’s vision of the coal mine. It looks uncannily similar to the view of the Chernobyl sarcophagus and for those living in the shadow of Sellafield looks like the threat of a nuclear sacrifice zone rather than a promise of a “green mine.”
We urge the Planning Inspector to overturn Cumbria County Council’s approval for this uniquely dangerous coal mine.“
Please do write to the Planning Inspectorate, include your name and address and write before May 6th to this address, if you would like to speak at the inquiry please do let the Planning Inspectorate know.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Quote reference ‘APP/H0900/V/21/3271069 By post. (please send 3 copies written in black if possible) Letters can be sent to: Ms Elizabeth Humphrey The Planning Inspectorate Room 3/J Kite Wing Temple Quay House 2 The Square Bristol, BS1 6PN
Our full letter is below – please do use for inspiration for your own letters to the Planning Inspectorate
(9) Potential for Contamination of Egremont boreholes used by UU as potable drinking water source for parts of West Cumbria (Appendix 12-9 Response to EA Comments by ESI Consulting – attached)
(10) “This group is dedicated to improving the water quality in West Cumbria and has been created as a result of the recent introduction of borehole water into our supply which many feel is unsatisfactory to say the least”. .https://www.facebook.com/groups/253953375095270/
“workers repairing the leak were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, preventing them from discussing the details of the work, however Sellafield has denied this. The spokesman said: “We have been open and transparent about this incident. We have kept our regulators and stakeholders informed throughout and published details on our website on 18 November.” Last month there was another leak in the older part of the site and work is due to take place in the new year. Sellafield said: “The current suspected leak is in an inaccessible part of the building, which is underground.
The Buck Stops With BEIS But Will Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng ACT on His Fine Words?
Back in January the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng the Secretary of State for the all powerful Dept of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (formerly DECC) said the coal mine issue created a “slight tension.” Today he says that there are “compelling reasons to block the coal mine.”
So why doesnt Kwasi Kwarteng translate these fine words into deeds and tell the Coal Authority (for which BEIS is responsible) NOT TO ISSUE NEW COAL AUTHORITY LICENSES to West Cumbria Mining?
The Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng should act on his words, block the coal mine and save the public purse from the expenditure of £Millions on a farcical public inquiry.
Please Write to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng and BEIS email@example.com
Ask that Kwasi Kwarteng Secretary of State for BEIS uses his status to ensure the Coal Authority Licenses due to be renewed/extended for West Cumbria Mining are instead scrapped
An Open Letter to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
Dear Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng
You said yesterday that there is “a slight tension” between the governmnent washing its hands (Pontius Pilate like) of the Cumbria coal mine saying its a ‘local decision’ and the UK government’s committment to net zero carbon and its chairing of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in November.
The UK Dept for Business Energy and Industry Strategy argue that the coal mine is “a local decision” but in the awarding of new Coal Authority licenses to the developers (West Cumbria Mining) the buck stops with BEIS. Accountability of the Coal Authority lies directly with the BEIS. The first set of licenses is due to run out on 24th January.
As nuclear safety campaigners who have been opposing this mine since 2017 we are very concerned that the climate aspect of this mine may not be the most disastrous to life on planet earth. BEIS is directly responsible for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management who have appointed the CEO of the coal mine development, Mark Kirkbride to their Committee who advise BEIS and Radioactive Waste Management on “site selection” of a potential Geological Disposal Facility for Radioactive Wastes. The Coal Mine is adjacent to the area under the Irish Sea bed which is ‘in the frame’ for the subsea geological disposal of heat generating nuclear wastes.
Do BEIS believe that mining out coal adjacent to the area they are promoting as a Geological Disposal Facility will make the rocks more stable? Or that mining directly underneath the decades of Sellafield’s discharged wastes will make them safer?
The coal mine would be directly beneath the nuclear wastes discharged from Sellafield over the last 70 odd years. They are in the silts known as the “Cumbrian Mud Patch.” The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have along with local nuclear safety campaigners Radiation Free Lakeland, urged Cumbria County Council to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch. WCM have designated and identified a sub-sea mining zone of the Irish Sea lying to the west of St Bees Head and extending at least 8kms offshore and southwards to within about 8km of the Sellafield site. The WCM extraction proposals, using continuous mining methods, predict the extraction of approximately 3 million tonnes of coal per year over a 50 year period. This extraction rate will eventually generate a huge subterranean void space of approximately 136 million cubic metres (a volume greater than that of Wastwater Lake). Subsidence “is expected” beneath Sellafield’s discharged nuclear wastes currently (largely imobilised in the silt, remobilising the nuclear wastes into the water column and back to land.
Now we urge BEIS NOT TO ISSUE COAL AUTHORITY LICENSES for this Coal Mine which would be largely under the Irish Sea.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland Campaign
Great news that Robert Jenrick the Communities Secretary of State has called in the coal mine plan for a public inquiry. This must be a no holds barred inquiry which includes nuclear impacts and vested nuclear interests of government rather than the limited Punch and Judy show we have witnessed so far. We will be lobbying government to ensure nuclear impacts are given at least equal status to climate impacts within the scope of the inquiry. Terms of Reference for this public inquiry MUST include Nuclear.
“Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick wrote to Cumbria County Council to say he has decided to “call in” the application, saying it raised issues of “more than local importance”.
A public inquiry would explore the arguments put forward by both supporters and opponents of the proposal by West Cumbria Mining.
The move has been welcomed by campaign group, Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (KCCH) who brought a judicial review into the application two years ago.
Following the judicial review, campaigner Marianne Bennett claimed vindication after West Cumbrian Mining submitted a revised planning application.
Instead of 15 per cent of the mined produce being a type of non-metallurgical coal, known as “middlings” coal, the revised planning application was to only process premium metallurgical coal in a simplified, cheaper-to-construct mine proposed for the site of the former Marchon Chemical Works.
Following the announcement of a public inquiry into the proposed mining operation, Leigh Day solicitor Rowan Smith, who represented Marianne Bennett in her application for judicial review, said:
“This is extremely welcome news for the climate. However, if it had not been for the legal challenge brought by our client two years ago, which argued that the coal mine was incompatible with the Net Zero Target and forced the Council to think again, then construction would have already been underway by now. The Government should acknowledge this publicly and thank the campaign for what it has achieved.”
Marianne Bennett the founder of the nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland whose Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign was the first to call out this coal mine on nuclear and climate grounds said:
“The Government U-turn on a public inquiry is brilliant news, provided the inquiry also offers a further opportunity for the nuclear impacts of the proposal to be looked at again, given the development will take place under decades of Sellafield’s radioactive wastes and just five miles from the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site. We will be calling for that scrutiny to happen alongside the climate change issues.”
The public inquiry was announced after environment campaigners also warned that the go-ahead for the mine would have undermined the Government’s green credentials as it prepared to host the Cop26 international climate change summit in Glasgow later this year.
Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth said it was “a startling, but very welcome U-turn by the Government”, reported Press Association.
He added: “Planning permission must be refused: ending coal use, whether for power generation or for industry, is crucial for facing down the climate emergency.
“It was not possible for the Government to maintain, as it claimed only two months ago, that this was just a matter of local importance and the decision will now rightly be taken at national level.”
The announcement came after the council said last month it would reconsider the application by West Cumbria Mining to mine for coking coal for use in steel production.
The move prompted the company to announce that it was lodging papers with the High Court to begin its own judicial review proceedings.
The application was first submitted in 2017 and had already been considered three times by the council’s planning committee without it reaching a final outcome.
Mr Jenrick said he had taken into account the latest recommendations of the Climate Change Committee for the sixth carbon budget which will set legal limits for emissions between 2033 and 2037.
His letter states: “The Secretary of State considers that this application raises planning issues of more than local importance, and further considers that the limbs of the call-in policy relating to potential conflict with national policies … and substantial cross-boundary or national controversy are satisfied.”
The ball has been kicked back to Cumbria County Council. We now need to tell the Council again that they should scrap the coal mine plan and why!
Here is an Excellent Letter to Cumbria County Council’s Development Control & Regulation Committee. Please do use this letter below from David Penney as inspiration for your own letters – if you have written before please do write again. If you are a member or executive of one of the 80 organisations who wrote to Boris Johnson please ask these NGOs to make sure they do not deceive the public and politicians by ignoring the serious nuclear aspects of this coal mine . If you are a member of any of these NGOs eg Wildlife Trusts, RSPB, Friends of the Lake District, CPRE, Cumbria Action for Sustainability etc please ask them to write urgently to Cumbria County Council, (the ball has been kicked back to the local council) with the FULL truth including the serious intergenerational nuclear impacts.
Review: Planning Permission for new Coal Mine in West Cumbria
Following the Financial Times Article (9th February 2021) on a proposed deep Radioactive Waste Disposal Facility in West Cumbria, it has become clear that there is a connection between the proposed new Coal Mine and Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) as 2 Executives from the Mining Company have been seconded to serve on the Radioactive Waste Management Body (RWM), a subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority, which is responsible for finding a Nuclear Waste Disposal Site.
One nuclear expert, Dr Paul Dorfman of University College London’s Energy Institute, is quoted as saying in the Financial Times Article that no new Nuclear Reactors should be built until they have solved the problem of the safe storage of existing nuclear waste. It is interesting to note that so far no safe waste storage facility has been developed anywhere in the world. Finland has been trying to develop such a deep nuclear fuel repository site at Onkalo since 2000 and still have not solved safe storage and technical problems.
This link up between the coal and nuclear industries would seem to indicate that the proposed new coal mine, near to Sellafield, which stores an immense amount of nuclear waste in a hazardous deteriorating condition, and near to the proposed new nuclear reactors, might be accessed at a future date to develop a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF) for storing Radioactive Waste or on a site closely adjacent to the proposed mine with its potentially dangerous geological faults.
The Government has already announced a Consultation with the 2 relevant District Councils (Copeland and Allerdale) on finding a suitable GDF site in the area despite the presence of geological faults in the area of West Cumbria known collectively as “The Lake District Boundary Fault Zone” (LDBFZ) which lies at the junction between the Carboniferous and younger rocks of West Cumbria and the East Irish Sea Basin.
A British Geological Survey of the area in 2010 recorded in their Report: “Managing Radioactive Waste Safely: Initial Geological Unsuitability Screening of West Cumbria” that there were initial risks in using the area for a GDF due to unstable nature of the Geology and recommended further studies to confirm the unsuitability or otherwise of using the area as a GDF.
In the light of these uncertainties and the risk of a new coal mine disturbing the geology with further faults, fractures, subsidence and leakage, which could have adverse impacts on the site of adjoining Sellafield as well as the proposed sites for new Nuclear Reactors and a GDF, it would be reasonable that the precautionary principle should be invoked and planning permission for a new Coal Mine in West Cumbria should be rescinded along with the other main reason stated in this Submission
A decision by Cumbria County Council to revoke planning permission for a new coal mine would also imply that any proposal for a GDF in West Cumbria would also be rejected.
The two West Cumbrian Councils of Copeland and Allerdale seem to support the new coal mine saying that it is needed to supply coal/coke to the steel industry in the UK and would create lots of jobs as well as export surplus coal (CO2) overseas. What they don’t tell us is that steel can be produced in electric arc furnaces or new hydrogen powered carbon free steel foundries being developed by Sweden.
Supporters also ignore the impact of increasing CO2 emissions from extracting coal which would contravene UK’s commitment to phase out coal, gas and oil fossil fuel production and reduce CO2 emissions under the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, which was ratified by Parliament and should be implemented as Government Policy.
The Government claims to be a world leader in combating Climate Change. If the opening of a new coal mine is allowed to go ahead it will undermine and invalidate this claim and not set a good example as the UK hosts the UN COP26 Conference in Glasgow in November 2021.
In summary, the main reasons for overturning the Planning Permission for the new Coal Mine in West Cumbria are as follows:
It would reaffirm the UK’s commitment to phase out coal mining to reduce CO2 emissions and comply with Policies to combat Climate Change;
It would protect the Geology of the West Cumbria and the East Irish Sea Basin Fault Zone from developing further faults;
It would stop the risks of potential geological disturbances to nearby existing nuclear sites and any future proposed nuclear installations in the vicinity.
In the light of these criticisms and objections, we hope Cumbria County Council will rescind planning permission for this coal mine as well as reject any future planning application for a GDF in West Cumbria.
Here is our latest letter to Cumbria County Council asking them not to rubber stamp the Decision Notice. Thank You to Everyone who has written asking for more scrutiny. The date for the new Planning Meeting is yet to be confirmed – will keep you posted!
Dear Development Control and Regulation Committee, Chairman and Secretary
I am writing to you again on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal, a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign. On this occasion I write to ask that you do not issue a Decision Notice for the Woodhouse Colliery application until your members have had the opportunity to take into account the significant developments that have occurred since they discussed the revised application. Your Committee decided not to reject the application. I put it this way because you will recall that the Secretary of State placed a holding instruction on the Council which prevented approval being granted. This instruction was removed on the 6 January 2021, as you know, and has not been reapplied despite pressure to do so. The Council is therefore now free to decide the application.
In the intervening time since you decided not to reject the application but were minded to approve it there have been significant events that should be taken into account:
Climate Change Committee’s advice on the 6th Carbon Budget
Coal Authority lapse of approval for any further onshore and offshore exploration.
Sellafield’s lack of taking responsibility for radioactive wastes on the seabed directly above the coal mine
New Awareness of Lack of testing by the British Geological Society (hydrology/geology/seismicity)
Awareness of Appointments of West Cumbria Mining Executives to public bodies Radioactive Waste Management and Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (two public bodies reporting to Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy)
Awareness of Cumbrian Heritage and Land sold for £1
6th Carbon Budget
A Letter has been sent from Lord Deben, Chairman of the Climate Change Committee (CCC) to Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government about the decision not to call in, or review, the recent decision of Cumbria County Council to grant planning permission to a new Cumbrian coal mine saying that ” The mine is projected to increase UK emissions by 0.4Mt CO2e per year. This is greater than the level of annual emissions we have projected from all open UK coal mines to 2050.” We have written to the Committee asking that they also write to their parent Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy urging BEIS not to issue new Coal Authority Licences for Cumbria. Furthermore, on 9 December 2020, the CCC recommended CO2 emissions to be cut by 78% between 1990 and 2035, which would in effect bring forward the UK’s previous 80% target by nearly 15 years.
Coal Authority LIcences (CA report to BEIS)
The original Coal Authority licenses were given to Riverside Energy and then West Cumbria Mining over and above the heads of councillors and the public in 2013/14. The original licences for WCM ran for five years with an extension of 3 years. Two of the three have effectively now lapsed and West Cumbria Mining have applied for an extension of those conditional licenses. The lapsed licenses have been temporarily extended pending the Coal Authority’s consideration of the application, but meanwhile any works under those licences is prohibited. Under the original licence many miles of exploratory boreholes were drilled and a methane gas pocket was accidentally hit under the Irish Sea off St Bees necessitating the call out of the Irish Coast Guard.
Lack of Testing/Scrutiny by British Geological Society
The British Geological Society informed us in August 2020 that they have not carried out any hydrological surveys despite much of West Cumbria’s drinking water being drawn from boreholes in South Egremont a few miles away. We are mindful that the BGS gave a clean bill of health to arsenic contaminated water in Bangladesh which resulted in the biggest poisoning event in history and is still ongoing today. Also of concern is the BGS signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with Radioactive Waste Management/CoRWM who have appointed at least one former executive and one current executive from West Cumbria Mining to facilitating Geological Disposal. We consider this a conflict of interest.
Responsibility for the Safety of Radioactive Wastes on the Irish Sea Bed
The Chief Executive Officer of WCM has stated that ‘the mine has nothing to do with nuclear waste’ despite the mine being situated beneath decades of Sellafield’s discharges. When it comes to taking responsibility for damage to health and environment coal mining companies are almost as notorious for evasion as the nuclear industry. We have tried repeatedly to find out just who is responsible for the undiluted and largely undispersed radioactive wastes on the Irish Sea bed. These wastes should not be disturbed and resuspended by, as WCM say “expected” subsidence.. Sellafield have refused to admit responsibility for the radioactive wastes on the seabed merely restating their commitment to “monitoring”. We endorse the call by the Nuclear Free Local Authorities for the Decision Notice not to be issued until this issue of responsibility has been addressed. We have put in an official complaint to the Information Commissioner.
The former leader of Cumbria County Council Eddie Martin has this week raised concerns with us about the links between the coal mine developers and the plan for a geological disposal facility in the Irish Sea area adjacent to the coal mine.
He has said: “Clearly the mine is a precursor to a GDF”
This statement is evidence based. Following the County Council’s 31st Oct 2019 meeting at which the first WCM application was approved (pending 106 agreements and Decision Notice), the Chief Executive Officer of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. This appointment was just days after the Council’s approval of WCM’s planning application. As well as the appointment of Mark Kirkbride to CoRWM, the former Head of Operations of WCM Steve Reece is now the Site Selection Manager at Radioactive Waste Management.
We are extremely concerned at the lack of transparency of governance in the appointments of executives of West Cumbria Mining to public bodies facilitating Geological Disposal despite those same executives being party to the most controversial coal mine development in the UK. These public bodies of CoRWM and RWM report directly and indirectly (RWM reports to NDA) to the Department of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy. The same Department BEIS is also responsible for the public body issuing Coal Authority licenses who first issued WCM (originally Riverside) with a license to drill over the heads of councillors and the public in 2013/14.
Haig Mining Museum and Land bought for £1
The narrative WCM and its supporters like to present is one of a financial boon to West Cumbria. It is no secret that mine companies use administration or bankruptcy laws to avoid paying out on health damage, remediation or just to consolidate their assets and the CEO of WCM has a track record of this legal but unethical practice. It has not been widely reported that West Cumbria Mining have already fleeced West Cumbria of its publicly owned Heritage Lottery Funded Haig Mining Museum and lands. WCM waited until the planning application was secured before offering £1 for the land and buildings and £39,000 for the historically important and valuable fixtures and fittings in the visitor centre and powerhouse. Following this “purchase” WCM put in place the paperwork to ensure that when the developers go into administration to divest/regroup – the Haig Museum, land and assets would not go to creditors but to unknown persons via EMR Capital. Competition rules apparently did not apply in the WCM “purchase” of West Cumbria Minings valuable heritage and land whose actual value runs into £Millions, now lost forever to EMR Capital’s initial backers. Radiation Free Lakeland whose membership includes some with expertise in Industrial Heritage, Interpretation, Museums and Conservation would have liked the opportunity to have offered far more than £1. That opportunity was not given to anyone as the plan to hand over publicly owned heritage to WCM was as far as we know not made public. Another “buyer” could have kept the heritage and museum intact and publicly available, offering a social hub and adding to the intrinsic value of the Heritage Coast. That the Heritage Lottery Funded Museum and extensive Land has now been sold for far less than a mess of pottage to venture capitalists under the homely guise of a ‘local coal mine’ is an unreported national scandal. (19 Feb 2020 Return of final meeting in a creditors’ voluntary winding up https://find-and-update.company-information.service.gov.uk/company/04914614/filing-history )
We are grateful that Cumbria County Councillors are scrupulous about declaring conflicts of interest. However, the vested interests surrounding this coal mine are raising huge concerns such as that voiced to us by the former leader of Cumbria County Council Eddie Martin. ““Clearly the mine is a precursor to a GDF”
We urge the Development Control and Regulation Committee to take control of this spiral of corruption of governance and refuse to issue a Decision Notice for this Development in the most transparent way possible. That is to put this application on the first available meeting, air the issues once more and to follow the example of leading councillors in refusing the application.
On behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign)
Recent news articles show the level of opposition is mounting against the coal mine. However there are worrying omissions in both the news and mainstream NGO coverage.
One of the “Game Over” big issues ignored completely is the fact that the developers licences to explore/exploit the West Cumbrian/Irish Sea/Solway Firth coal resource have lapsed and are due for renewal. People can contact the Dept of Business Energy and Industrial Strategy and ask that the conditional Coal Authority Licences are not renewed. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Another is the fact that Cumbria County Council are yet to issue a final Decision Notice. People can contact the council asking that a Decision Notice is Not Issued. The Development Control and Regulation Committee details can be found here or tweet @CumbriaCC
For the last couple of weeks I have been trying to raise the issue in the national and local press of the Coal Licences having lapsed and being due for renewal. Despite speaking for hours on the phone to various national reporters I have seen nothing in the printed press about the fact that if the licences are not renewed it would be Game Over for the Cumbrian Coal Mine.
Here is a letter (unpublished ) sent to the press a couple of weeks ago (!).
Please do use it as inspiration to write your own letters to the Business Energy and Industrial Strategy Dept (see below for more info) asking that they do not issue new coal licences over and above the heads of the public and local Cumbrian Councillors.
Many Thanks for all your continuing actions against this diabolic plan.
Marianne and Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole
There has been much in the press about the Climate Change Tsar Alok Sharma and the Climate Change Committee “seething” at the refusal of the Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick to call in Cumbria County Council’s approval of the coal mine (which happens to be just five miles from the worlds riskiest nuclear waste site). This “seething” looks like so much posturing given that both Alok Sharma MP and the Climate Change Committee owe their appointments to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. BEIS gave West Cumbria Mining conditional licence to drill “exploratory boreholes” (above the heads of local councillors and the public) 8 years ago. The Developers are now asking for a renewal for their “exploratory” conditional licences Will BEIS (who appoint the Climate Change Committee and have responsibility for the Coal Authority do the right thing, refuse the conditional licences and call Game Over for the Cumbrian Coal mine? If not, it is Game Over for any credibility of the UK hosting the Climate Summit COP26 and perhaps more importantly for our immediate safety, Game Over for any pretence of responsibility for the geological integrity of the Irish Sea area surrounding Sellafield. Write to BEIS and tell them not to issue renewed “conditional” or “unconditional” licences to West Cumbria Mining, people can email them here : email@example.com
Letter from the Coal Authority (who are a BEIS authority) to Radiation Free Lakeland
.”This site currently has 3 conditional licences which have been in place since 2013/14. A conditional licence allows coal exploration and would need to be replaced by a full licence in order for coaling to begin. On 18th January 2021 date West Cumbria Mining Ltd applied to extend the end dates of 2 of these conditional licences (UND/0184 & UND/0177). They were due to expire on 24th January 2021 but they will remain in place until the application to extend them has been determined. No exploratory works will be undertaken during this time. The application will take approximately 3 months to determine. If the conditional licences were extended the operator would still need to apply for one or more full coaling licences before coaling can begin. When the conditional licence extension application has been determined the outcome will be posted on our website: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coal-mining-licenceapplications.
We are a volunteer nuclear safety group in Cumbria. We have been opposing the proposed coal mine under the Irish Sea since 2017 on both climate and nuclear impacts. We are very concerned that Unite is supporting this plan.
The mine would be directly beneath the decades worth of reprocessing radioactive wastes on the Irish Sea bed, discharged from Sellafield.
The County Council in approving the mine said that subsidence of the sea bed would be “unavoidable” but that they thought it could be suitably mitigated for. We agree that subsidence of the Irish Sea bed would be “unavoidable” however we do not agree that it would be possible to mitigate against the resuspension of plutonium and other radioactive wastes from the Irish sea bed into the water column and back to the beaches.
Research has shown that dried resuspended radioactive particles can travel at least 10 miles inland. Its worth repeating that the coal mine would be highly likely to cause resuspension of decades worth of radioactive wastes. While UNITE members who work at Sellafield have to accept the known risk of radiation linked diseases from their occupation at least they have a Compensation Scheme for occupational radiation damage.
The public which includes the family members of UNITE would have no such Compensation scheme to “compensate” from radiation damage resulting from the resuspension of decades of Sellafield discharges which are now on the Irish Sea bed. Children and women are most at risk from radiation damage.
Included here are recent relevant reports including:
“Conclusions: We found strong evidence for associations between low doses from alpha-emitters and lung cancer risk. The excess OR/Gy was greater for plutonium than uranium, though confidence intervals overlap. Risk estimates were similar to those estimated previously in plutonium workers, and in uranium miners exposed to radon and its progeny. Expressed as risk/equivalent dose in sieverts (Sv), our estimates are somewhat larger than but consistent with those for atomic bomb survivors.”
A briefing paper by Tim Deere-Jones. WEST CUMBRIA MINING: WOODHOUSE COLLIERY PROPOSAL RADIOLOGICAL IMPLICATIONS of POTENTIAL SEABED SUBSIDENCE SEISMICITY & “FAULT RE-ACTIVATION” beneath The CUMBRIAN MUD PATCH: INDUCED BY “MASS REMOVAL”, RAPID EXTRACTION & VOID SPACE CREATION.
Radiation Free Lakeland very much hope that UNITE will oppose this coal mine which would cause damage to public health way beyond the more talked about climate change concerns. The burden on the NHS with regard radiation linked diseases would be increased manyfold should this coal mine go ahead – the most affected are the most vulnerable.
Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign