STOP THE COAL MINE IN CUMBRIA -PETITION

PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION –  LETS SEND CUMBRIA COUNTY COUNCIL THE MESSAGE 

STOP THE COAL MINE

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Nearly 4000 people, including Chris Packham have signed the petition to Stop the Coal Mine in Cumbria – Please keep sharing and signing.  As well as signing the petition – People can STILL WRITE individual letters to Cumbria County Councillors who will be making the decision on this to let them know STOP THE COAL MINE!

The main points to make are that this mine would fly in the face of the Council’s own climate commitments and its own stated commitments to protect the health, safety (this is 8km from Sellafield) and well being of all Cumbrians. Send an email to development.control@cumbria.gov.uk –or if you have time to all the Development Control and Regulation Committee members  quoting the application reference number 4/17/9007 and including your name and address.

 

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole say: Turn Down Dangerous Coal Mine Plan, For Cumbria and For the Planet

Yesterday was the last ‘official’ date to send in objections to the new ‘amended’ planning application.  You can still send in letters of objection up to the Planning Meeting which is scheduled for the 8th July (if this goes by previous form the meeting will be rescheduled again and again).  Please do send in letters to members of the planning committee. (They have voted yes to this diabolic plan twice before,).

This is the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole objection …

                                          15th June 2020

West Cumbria Mining: Planning Application Ref 4/17/9007: 

Woodhouse Colliery, High Road, Whitehaven

Dear Development Control and Regulation Committee,

I write on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, a campaign by Radiation Free Lakeland to ask that the County Council do not approve this amended planning application

We are a civil society group that aims to remove the risk of environmental damage both nationally and internationally that may arise from the presence of an extensive nuclear industry close (to the Lake District National Park, a World Heritage Site). 

On 19th March Cumbria County Council (CCC) granted conditional planning permission for a resumption of the long abandoned onshore coal mining at St Bees to West Cumbria Mining Limited (WCM). This would be followed by the ‘profit making’ offshore phase.   On 20 June 2019, our lawyers Leigh Day wrote to Cumbria County Council. The letter addressed a number of legal issues, including Cumbria County Council’s failures to consider:

  • Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of the mining operations
  • The need for, and GHG impacts of, Middlings Coal
  • The Government’s Net Zero target.

Despite being alerted to those concerns, Cumbria County Council ratified its decision on 31 October 2019. Mrs Justice Beverley Lang agreed that those legal issues  we raised were arguable and justified a public hearing.

In order it seems to circumvent the scrutiny afforded by Judicial Review and the criticisms levelled in the Green Alliance report the Developers have now submitted a new planning application.  This is despite the  CEO of West Cumbria Mining publicly stating that : “If you asked me to get planning for another one, I would say it would be impossible right now unless something significantly changed,”  Mark Kirkbride, British Tunnelling Society lecture reported in New Civil Engineer 26th February 2020    

The CEO of West Cumbria Mining went on to say:

“When we applied for planning it was a different set of planning rules. Now if you were to submit planning you’d have to try and do whole life greenhouse gas assessments.”  Given that steel can and should be produced without the use of coking coal – the additional GHG emissions arising from the use of coking coal from this mine to make steel should be taken into account . 

The amended planning application while attemping to address the original challenges we raised has compounded our concerns about the cumulative impacts of this mine. Regarding climate The use of coal from this mine will undermine the government’s net zero target, carbon budgets and policy to adhere to the Paris Agreement. 

NEW PROCESS TO TURN THERMAL/MIDDLINGS COAL INTO COKING COAL

The original big selling point of this mine proposal was that it would produce “premium” quality coking coal. In order to answer legitimate criticisms on the previous ‘by-product’ of middlings, the developers propose now to turn the 15% (or more) by-product of middlings/thermal coal into coking coal.  The details on this are sketchy. WCM say that in order to turn the thermal coal to coking coal there will be an additional process to enhance separation and removal of pyritic sulphur matter but then go on to claim optimistically that: 

“ Since this adjustment relates only to the internal process …. and no difference to external appearance …. it is not considered that it will give rise to any material effects of the proposal.”   This is clearly impossible – the removal of pyritic sulphur and the myriad other polluting imupurites from the middlings would leave an additional and unaddressed toxic footprint.  There would also be additional energy and freshwater usage.   In order to address the issue of the new and inferior quality of product, West Cumbria Mining propose a relaxation of the conditions that determine the specification for metallurgical coal.  The developer justifies a relaxation on the grounds that the original specification does not reflect the (now inferior) product that will be the final output from the Woodhouse Colliery, specifically with regard to ash and sulphur content.  WCM are also asking for removal of the condition that the product must be used only for steelmaking.  This is entirely understandable as once exported, WCM have no way of ensuring their coal is used solely for steel making (despite their considerable PR in this regard). 

METHANE

The WCM report by Dr Neil Bristow says that “WCM is committed and obliged to install a methane capture and drainage system. …It will be put to use as an energy source of the mine with no atmospheric impact.”    This disingenously suggests the impossible namely that 100% of the methane emitted by the mine (continuously by the exposed and broken coal) would be “used” …”with no atmospheric impact.” In the first two decades after its release, methane is 84 times more potent than carbon dioxide Overall it is roughly 30 times more potent than CO2 as a GHG.   WCM propose to build the methane capture plant by year 5.  Calculations have been done independently which suggest that “ 13.9MCu m of methane could be produced and if the Capture system is not operational by then (year 5) it is possible that 38.75M cu m will be released before then. That is an equivalent effect on the atmosphere of 856486 T of Co2.  From year 5 the Methane capture plant will need to capture about 13.9Mcu m per year if there is to be ‘no atmospheric impact’. Where will it be stored? To put this volume into context the old style town gasometers held about 50000cu m. So WCM are planning to capture and store the equivalent of 5.3 gasometers per week, every week!!!   This is a substantive GHG impact on which the council needs information.

POLICY DC20 THE WATER ENVIRONMENT

Cumbria County Council’s Policy DC20 states “Proposals for developments should demonstrate that they would have no unacceptable quantitative or qualitative adverse effects on the water environment, both within the application site and its surroundings, including surface waters, coastal waters, private water supplies and groundwater resources. Proposals that minimise water use and include sustainable water management will be favoured.” 

FRESH WATER

Despite requests to them for information by us and other NGOs, West Cumbria Mining have not demonstrated what the impact on ground water will be.  There is no information in the public domain regarding the projected quantity of freshwater abstraction from the Byerstead Fault or potential hydrological impact.   This is an important issue in West Cumbria which is already suffering from fresh water stress.   WCM again use disingenous language to suggest that virtually all freshwater would be recycled suggesting that there would be minimal abstraction.  There is no indication of exactly how much water WCM expect to abstract per day from the Byerstead Fault – a named geological fault.  The Marine Conservation Zone documentation describes it thus.. “This site lies within the boundary of the rMCZ11 and is situated in Saltom Bay on the Cumbrian coast north of St Bees Head. The site includes an area known locally as Byerstead Fault, a recovering intertidal zone that is showing a return of species diversity..

“Water is heavily used in coal processing and would be obtained from the following sources: Groundwater (Byerstead Fault) “   

WCM presentation to CCC 19th March 2019

Cumbria County Council’s Minerals and Waste Local Plan states:

  • “16.36  Proposals will, therefore, be required to demonstrate that they do not have unacceptable adverse impacts on water resources. Any adverse impact should be avoided or, if unavoidable, suitable mitigation measures should be proposed. Unacceptable quantitative or qualitative impacts are those which are deemed so by the Environment Agency, as part of the planning application process.
  • 16.37  Sites proposed for development will need to be subject to site specific hydro- geological assessment, in order to determine their acceptability. Some factors influencing this process are the type of facility, the pollution control measures adopted, the potential impacts on groundwater resources and the groundwater vulnerability of the site.
  • 16.38  With respect to mineral applications, there is a requirement to establish the relationship that the development has with the water table. If the base of the excavation is near or below the anticipated water table, then there will be a requirement to establish an appropriate monitoring scheme. In some circumstances, the development may be considered unacceptable if it is carried out below the level of the water table”. 

Not only will WCM be abstracting fresh water from the Byerstead Fault but the development is in the region of the West Cumbria Aquifer – a water resource that is currently used to provide fresh water for much of West Cumbria.  A region that is heavily faulted and complex.

WCM have revealed so litte detail about their fresh water usage that there can be no proper scrutiny or oversight by Cumbria County Council or the public.
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Aquifer beneath West Cumbria in the vicinity of WCM proposal

Image: BGS

 

 

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The image above is from ESI retained by WCM for “hydrological and hydrogeological support”. 

The amended planning application gives no idea of exactly how much water  would be abstracted from the Byerstead Fault (see above) at peak production of the mine – or of the damage likely to be caused by this abstraction

HAZARDOUS INSTALLATIONS – COAL AND NUCLEAR WASTE AT SELLAFIELD (and DRIGG)

When preparing Local Plans, local planning authorities are required to have regard to the prevention of major accidents and limiting their consequences. They must also consider the long-term need for appropriate distances between hazardous establishments and population or environmentally sensitive areas. They must also consider whether additional measures for existing establishments are required so that risks to people in the area are not increased.

Cumbria County Council are no exception and the Minerals and Waste Local Plan states that:

  • 5.102. “Permission should not be given for the extraction of coal unless the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or if not, it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts to justify the grant of planning permission”. 

and…

13.23  In some cases, a proposed development may itself have multiple environmental impacts that would be acceptable on their own, but which may exacerbate adverse impacts caused by other developments. Such cumulative environmental impacts can derive either from a number of developments with similar impacts being operational at the same time in an area, or from a number of concurrent developments in an area with different impacts or from a succession of similar developments over time. They can include the impacts of noise or traffic, and impacts on local communities, the landscape, water resources or wildlife habitats.

  • 13.24  Local Plan policy needs to take account of the extent to which a particular locality, community, environment or wider area can reasonably be expected to tolerate such adverse cumulative impacts. This may involve mitigation of impacts or the timing of permissions and phasing of operations to make a proposal acceptable. Where cumulative impact presents a potential issue, applicants should be able to demonstrate that this has been adequately assessed and addressed in a planning application.

The Office for Nuclear Regulation’s official remit to consult on planning applications is 7.4 km from Sellafield. The coal mine extends to 8km from Sellafield i.e. 600 metres difference. In the absence of any detailed regard to cumulative impacts by either the developers or Cumbria County Council or the regulators we have commissioned a Briefing Paper on the radiological implications of West Cumbria Mining’s plan.

The author of the paper, Tim Deere-Jones is an Independent & non-aligned Marine Pollution Researcher & Consultant whose clients include: WWF, The UK Wildlife Trusts, European Climate Foundation, Greenpeace International, European Coastal Local Authorities and many others.

This comprehensive report concludes that the plan by West Cumbria Mining should be abandoned.

The introduction and Major Conclusions are reproduced below…..

Introduction:                                                                                                                                                        This Briefing offers a review of the possible seabed morphological changes and marine pollution implications of the sub-sea coal mining venture proposed by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) at their Woodhouse Colliery site near St Bees Head.

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).

This briefing considers the impact of the creation of such a sub-sea void space on the possibility of sea bed subsidence in the area of the WCM designated sub-sea mining zone, and the subsequent potential for marine radiological pollution as a result of the subsidence induced re-suspension of the heavily radioactively contaminated sea bed sediments of the Cumbrian Mud Patch and surrounding sea bed areas.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….  

Major Conclusions

It is noted that there is a lack of data about the status of the existing historical galleries and workings of the West Cumbrian Coalfield. 

It is noted that there is a lack of accurate data about the history and status of any subsidence seismicity in the coalfield.  

It is noted that the BGS have concluded that the coalfield is heavily faulted and has a long history of subsidence and that it appears that there are no plans to monitor for any subsidence prior to, during the operational phase or in the post operational phase of the Woodhouse Colliery.  

It is noted that sub-sea monitoring equipment is available and could be deployed in the region in order to monitor for any subsidence effects arising as a result of the proposed Woodhouse Colliery “mass removal” extraction.

It is concluded that there is a real potential for subsidence to occur as a result of the “mass removal” and the creation of extensive sub-sea void spaces, and it is noted that such subsidence could generate earthquake and liquefaction effects which may extend onshore as far as the Sellafield/Moorside sites.

It is concluded that any seabed subsidence in the WCM designated sub-sea mining zone would generate re-suspension of Cumbrian Mud Patch heavily radioactive seabed sediments. It is noted that such an event would generate elevated doses of man-made radioactivity to coastal zone populations and sea users along both the Cumbrian coast and at “downstream” regions further afield.

Given the potential for such a radiological effect and the delivery of increased doses of radioactivity to relevant coastal zone communities, some of which have already been identified by the authorities as Coastal Critical Groups, the Woodhouse Colliery proposal (especially in the absence of any precautionary mandatory subsidence monitoring) is strongly contra-indicated and should be abandoned”

The full report is attached as a pdf

CONCLUSION

The weight of evidence is overwhelmingly clear that this application should be unequivocally refused.  We urge Cumbria County Council to take eagerly with both hands this new opportunity, via the amended planning application, to turn down this dangerous coal mine plan, for Whitehaven, for Cumbria, and for the Planet.  

 

Refs:

Cumbrian Campaign Group Granted Permission for Judicial Review https://www.leighday.co.uk/News/Press-releases-2020/February-2020/Cumbrian-campaign-group-granted-permission-for-jud

The Case Against New Coal Mines – Green Alliance https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/the_case_against_new_coal_mines_press_release.php

Cumbrian Coal Mine Could be ‘the last one’ in the UK – Tradelink Publications Ltd  https://mqworld.com/2020/02/26/cumbria-coal-mine-last-one-uk/

A more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, methane emissions will leap as Earth warms – Science Daily https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327111724.htm

Methane https://keepcumbriancoalinthehole.wordpress.com/2020/06/11/big-holes-in-mine-developers-plan/

UU Plans to Keep Drawing West Cumbria’s Water from Egremont Boreholes https://www.newsandstar.co.uk/news/17345135.united-utilities-plans-to-keep-drawing-west-cumbrias-water-from-egremont-boreholes/

Byerstead Fault – Marine Conservaton Zone https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/82717/mcz-i1-irish-seas-20121213.pdf

West Cumbria Aquifer https://www.bgs.ac.uk/research/groundwater/shaleGas/aquifersAndShales/maps/aquifers/CarboniferousLimestone.html

WCM have not demonstrated how much freshwater would be abstracted from the Byerstead Fault at peak production –  https://esi-consulting.co.uk/our-work/minerals-waste/hydrological-hydrogeological-support-proposed-metallurgical-coal-mine/?fbclid=IwAR2xvAcZjPly1AGS0nT8TLVHOuEAzKcciH_–G9NQv_m5kGFNznBdOOMc9s

Nightmare Coalmine Near Sellafield Approved. https://realmedia.press/sellafield-coal-mine/

BIG HOLES IN MINE DEVELOPERS PLAN

beautiful climate cloudiness clouds
Photo by icon0.com on Pexels.com

A local resident has sent the following letter to Cumbria County Council – it exposes many of the massive holes in West Cumbria Mining’s amended planning application.  Please  use this as inspiration to write your own letters of objection to ask that this mine is NOT GIVEN APPROVAL

Ideally Comments need to be submitted before June 15th for the meeting of July 8th – Why not ask to speak to the committee too!   

If you don’t have time to write There is also a petition here 

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WCM     Ref 4/17/9007 –    Amended Proposals  – May 2020

A quick reading of the WCM proposals leads me to believe that they have been made in response to the Green Alliance Report and were intended to negate the proposed Judicial Review.

Basically WCM are no longer producing the contentious thermal coal and are also planning to control the output of methane.   They are also placing great emphasis on how the mine will reduce GHG in America and in reduced transport.

1.0  Revised Process

1.1 In more than one section WCM say that there will be an additional process to enhance separation and removal of pyritic sulphur matter.  

“ Since this adjustment relates only to the internal process …. and no difference to external appearance …. it is not considered that it will give rise to any material effects of the proposal”

1.2 This cannot be the case.  As it is a new process it may have implications that Cumbria CC may wish to consider.   Some processes for removing pyritic sulphur can involve hydrochloric acid.  

1.3  “ The vol of reject material to be returned underground remains the same”

This cannot be the case if the new process is producing more waste.   This in turn will go through the paste plant and result in more cement being used.  (  see my letter of the 24/1/19)

2.0 Methane Capture and Utilisation

2.1  In their submission to Cumbria CC   WCM use several phrases to describe their proposals.

“During the ramp up phase to full production a detailed design of a methane capture and utilisation plant will begin once viable volumes are available. It is assumed it will be operating from 5th year of production”

“ Methane capture and drainage system will reduce and mitigate release of methane and  …. will have no atmospheric impact”

Bristow report – “ WCM is committed and obliged to install a methane capture and drainage system. …It will be put to use as an energy source of the mine with no atmospheric impact”

These three quotes show that WCM have no real plan at the moment and are making assumptions about when it will start.  ‘Reduce and mitigate’ are not the same as ‘ no atmospheric impact’

2.2 Twice in the above quotes WCM say ‘ no atmospheric impact’  so this implies that 100% of the methane will be captured.    To get an idea of the scale of the task I have produced the attached Methane table. (Table 1)  This shows that in year 5   13.9MCu m of methane could be produced and if the Capture system is not operational by then it is possible that 38.75M cu m will be released before then. That is an equivalent effect on the atmosphere of 856486 T of Co2.

2.3  From year 5 the Methane capture plant will need to capture about 13.9Mcu m per year if there is to be ‘no atmospheric impact’.   Where will it be stored ?  To put this volume into context the old style town gasometers held about 50000cu m. .So WCM are planning to capture and store the equivalent of 5.3 gasometers per week, every week!!!   

2.4 Methane in the mine ventilation system will be very diluted with air so will be very difficult to extract.  By drilling boreholes into the coal faces before working an area the methane may be captured when the area is worked.   Overall it is very doubtful if the plant will extract any more than 75% .

2.5   Even with the capture plant it is likely that of the 13.9MCum produced each year from Year 5 only 10.425MCum will be captured.     I would not call the 3.5Mcum /yr  remaining as having  ‘no atmospheric impact’ as WCM claim.

2.6  Even though WCM are placing great emphasis on the Capture and Utilisation plant to enhance their ‘green’ credentials  I am surprised that they are so vague about details.  They have no design yet, no details of how much methane will be captured , no storage details , and no utilisation details.

2.7  It is difficult to see how the capture plant and storage system could be housed in the present structure that is proposed.

2.8  Even if my estimated figures for methane capture are 50% out , the fact remains that WCM intend to store large quantities of methane on site , near residential  estates.

2.9  WCM  say they will utilise methane to generate electricity for their own use.  If this utilisation is less than the capture how do they envisage that the surplus will be stored ? 

3.0  WCM coal v USA coal

3.1 WCM say that ‘ the substitution of US coal with Cumbrian coal … is not likely to result in an increase in GHG emissions’     also  they say ‘It is reasonable to assume that coal mined in the UK will contribute less GHG emissions than an equivalent operation in the USA.’   

3.2  These statements may well be true but nowhere do WCM give any figures to show how they have arrived at these conclusions.

3.3 WCM admit that they are not sure how much methane /ton of coal will be produced in their mine. They say 2 to 6 Cum /T .  No where do they say what they have estimated for the USA mines.  It is guess work and supposition.  Without  any evidence they are assuming that the USA coal gives off more methane.

3.4  In order to get some handle on the truth of their statements I have produced Table 2.  I have used a figure of 5cu m /T for Cumbria and 2.5 cu m /T for the USA.  Who is to say that these figures are right or wrong ?

3.5  From Table 2 it can be seen that WCM produce twice the methane of the USA in the first 5 years.  It is only when the Capture plant becomes operational in year 6 that WCM  methane levels fall below the USA.  Even after 10 years the total that WCM could potentially emit over that 10 year period is still higher than the USA.    

3.6   Importantly any methane that would have been emitted in the USA will now be emitted in the UK

3.7  WCM assertion that their mine will emit less GHG than a mine in the USA is not based upon any facts that they have produced.

4.0 New Technologies

4.1  In their response to the Green Alliance Report  WCM give details of  new technologies that may negate or reduce the use of metallurgical coal.   They say they do not envisage any viable technologies in the next couple of decades.  

 

 4.2  Technological  change may be quicker than this, spurred on by legislation  in European countries.  Who 20 yrs ago could have seen the development of wind turbines on the present scale.

5.0 Labour and Hours of Work

5.1   I was interested to see the table of potential salaries paid by WCM.

5.2   The local Mayor and several local politicians have been supporting the mine on the basis that it will bring well paid jobs. They may be disappointed.

5.3  To me they do not seem to be well paid. In fact in Dr Bristow’s report for WCM which discusses  the economics of the mine, he says ‘ salaries for miners (UK)  are lower than for other countries’

6.0 Cumbria CC Emergency Planning

6.1  I was surprised that in their response to this latest proposal  they basically said ‘no comment’

6.2  This is very surprising considering the nature of the methane capture plant and that methane will be stored  near residential properties.

6.3  They should look at the proposal again.!

7.0  Scale of Operations 

7.1  In my previous correspondence  I have expressed surprise at the scale of paste pumping operations that WCM propose.

7.2 I have also previously pointed out that WCM are proposing a peak of coal production that exceeds the maximum peak that was ever achieved by all the combined mines of West Cumbria.   The history of the West Cumbria coal field has been one of geological faults and methane.

8.0 Summary

8.1  WCM do not describe their new pyrittic sulphur removal plant. What chemicals are involved.? Contrary to what they say extra waste will be produced .  

8.2 Methane is not captured for the first 5 years. 38.75M Cu m may be released in that time.  

8.3 To have ‘no atmosptheric impact’ the methane capture plant will need to capture 100% which seems unlikely.  

8.4 It is likely that the ‘utilisation’ of the methane will be less than the capture so large volumes will be stored. 

8.5 Contrary to local belief salaries in the mine will not be well paid.

8.6 WCM  have not produced data to back up their assertion that their mine will be cleaner than a USA mine

9.0 Conclusion

9.1 WCM have made many generalised statements about GHGs without any backup data.

9.2  WCM  should produce data to show how much methane they envisage being released in the first five years.

 9.3 WCM should be asked to back up their assertion that their mine will be cleaner than a USA mine

9.4 Statements such as ‘no atmospheric impact’ are based upon the 100% success of a plant that will not be designed for 4 years.  WCM should produce an indicative design now.  By the nature of methane in a mine is not possible for methane capture to be 100%.  What percentage do WCM envisage in reality?

9.5 Data showing envisaged volumes of methane , capture, utilisation and storage should be produced.   

9.6  Information on how and where the methane will be stored is needed especially as the mine is close to residential estates.

9.7 From the contents of this letter I hope you can see that Cumbria CC should not take WCM general statements on face value without backup data or more questions.

9.8  If the mine opens then it is important that Cumbria CC has some form of audit system to verify that what WCM say will happen  regarding  control of methane, does actually happen!

Former Research Scientist with the National Coal Board Speaks Out Against Cumbrian Coal Mine

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Logo of the National Coal Board – National Coal Board (NCB), former British public corporation, created on January 1, 1947, which operated previously private coal mines, manufactured coke and smokeless fuels, and distributed coal, heating instruments, and other supplies. It was renamed the British Coal Corporation in 1987. The British coal industry was privatized under the Coal Industry Act 1994, which also created a Coal Authority to license coal mining operations and to manage the environmental effects of past mining.   Info from Encyclopaedia Britannica

 

The following letter is reproduced here with kind permission of the author.

3 June 2020

Dear Sir

Woodhouse Colliery, Application Number 4/17/9007 West Cumbria Mining (WCM)

I wish to object to the application

Why I am writing this letter

I was educated at Kendal Grammar School and then graduated in economics from the London School of Economics.  My first job, from 1967 to 1973 was as an operational research scientist with the National Coal Board.  Most of my work was on improving the transport of coal from the coal face to the surface and also on the surface.  I then worked as a transport consultant with the Economist Intelligence Unit and as an industrial economist with an engineering consultancy in the Middle East.  For thirty years up to my retirement I worked in the management consultancy practice of KPMG.  At KPMG I was often involved in advising clients on the viability of investment projects.

I am writing because I was astonished to see a proposal to open a deep coal mine in a coalfield which had high costs of production and at a time when the climate emergency demands the phasing out of coal.      

The market envisaged by WCM

WCM propose to sell coking quality coal to steel producers who use the blast furnace/basic oxygen furnace process in the UK and Europe.  This market is currently served mainly by coal from the United States.  WCM argue that their product would have a competitive advantage in Europe because of shorter transport distances and lower transport costs.  WCM argues that this leads to an advantage in terms of greenhouse gas emissions because of less fuel used in shipping.

There are other steel processes which do not require coking coal.  The scrap-based electric arc furnace process accounts for about 40% of EU production.  The direct reduction process usually uses natural gas and is widely used in the Middle East.

Getting finance for the project

WCM have already raised funding for project development (exploratory drilling, initial design and obtaining planning permission).  The company would next need to find investors willing to commit much greater sums to:

  • develop the access drifts to coal seam level;
  • equip the ventilation system; 
  • equip mine drainage systems;
  • equip the underground transport systems for coal extraction, and taking in workers and supplies;
  • provide the coal cutting and loading equipment;
  • build the coal preparation plant and other surface installations. 

This would be a major project.  The investors would spend several years paying out money in capital investment before there was any income from sales of coal.  The last big drift mine project in the UK was the Selby complex where development took four years before any coal was produced.  Deep mining has always been financially risky because, although you may have borehole information, you do not know for certain what lies underground.  

 In this case there are major market risks.  What will be the market for metallurgical coal in Europe when this project comes on stream, perhaps in the mid to late 2020s and, over the long operating life that WCM envisages?  Investors would do due diligence on:

  • potential customers in the United Kingdom and Europe (customers being steel producers using the blast furnace process) ;
  • competition for the market in Europe, and in particular steel imports from elsewhere (China, Russia, Turkey);
  • the impact of the coronavirus recession on steel demand;
  • technology in the steel industry;
  • environmental regulation in the UK and the European Union.  Investment institutions are increasingly concerned that climate change could undermine what now appear to be profitable activities and are under pressure to avoid investments in fossil fuels.

Investors would have to look very carefully at all these risks.  Would any serious investor put money into the WCM project?

Overall steel production in the Europe Union (EU28)

I refer to market conditions before the coronavirus pandemic.  The market prospects for most major industrial investments will be worse post-pandemic.

The Statistical Yearbook of the World Steel Association shows that steel production in the EU(28) fell at the time of the 2008 financial crisis and has not fully recovered.  Crude steel production was 199 million tonnes in 2008 and was down to 168 million tonnes in 2017.  This is not a growing market.  

Within this overall total UK crude steel output fell steeply from 13.5 million tonnes in 2008 to 7.5 million tonnes in 2017.  The major producing countries in the EU are Germany, followed by Italy, France and Spain.

The USA has taken anti-dumping action against imports of steel from China.  EU countries have not taken anti-dumping action.  The policy argument has been won by those who say that the benefits of cheap steel for steel-using industries outweigh any gains from protecting the domestic steel industry.  The UK, when a member of the EU, was against anti-dumping action.  So the steel industry is unlikely to be sheltered by protectionist policies.

Potential customers for coking coal in the UK

The UK has two steelworks with blast furnaces, at Scunthorpe and Port Talbot.  Until 2016 both were owned by Tata Steel of India.  In March 2016 Tata, facing financial losses, proposed to sell all or part of its UK steel assets.  The Scunthorpe plant and units making “long products” were sold for £1 to a private equity company Greybull Capital which renamed the business “British Steel”.  After the sale Tata  underwent a change of management and a change of heart.  In December 2016 Tata agreed to invest in Port Talbot and continue to operate blast furnaces there for five years.

In May 2019 British Steel went into insolvency.  The business was kept going by the Official Receiver until it was sold in March 2020 to a Chinese company, Jingye Group.  Commentators have suggested that the attractive part of the business with a longer-term future is not the blast furnace operation but the well-equipped rolling mills. The rolling mills could keep working using semi-finished steel brought in from elsewhere.

Tata Steel continued to make losses.  In January 2020 Nataranjan Chandrasekaran, Chairman of Tata Sons Group told the Sunday Times that “the company can’t have a situation where India keeps funding losses” at Port Talbot.  In April 2020 the BBC reported that Tata was seeking £500 millions in government support for the Port Talbot operations.

Both UK blast furnace operations were in a financially precarious state even before the coronavirus recession.  Jingye and Tata Steel are likely to need to restructure, possibly by ceasing the blast furnace operations and concentrating on downstream processing of semi-finished steel from elsewhere.  No potential investor in Woodhouse Colliery could safely assume that they would be customers for coking coal by the time the mine opened.  The mine operator would need to seek customers in mainland Europe.  

The documents submitted by WCM envisage hauling some of the output by rail to Teesside for shipment.  This might still have cost advantages over US coal, but these would be less profitable than for the UK market because of port-related costs and costs of shipping coal to European ports.

The market in the EU – Environmental policy issues

In December 2019 the incoming European Commission published “The European Green Deal” which sets out a broad strategy for accelerating progress towards meeting a target of no net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2050.  It proposes increasing the EU’s climate ambition for 2030.  It describes a range of policy measures which can be used to achieve this, including:

  • the emissions trading system (ETS) which raises the financial costs of activities which emit greenhouse gases;
  • an emphasis on recycling, the “circular economy”;
  • co-ordinated action with other countries;
  • a “carbon border adjustment mechanism” which would penalize those who simply move polluting activity offshore to places with lax regulation;
  • the use of the EU budget to promote the reduction of emissions, including specifically “research and innovation on low-carbon steelmaking”.

Emissions from steel making are about 6% – 7% of total EU CO2 emissions, so the industry is a target for regulatory change.  The Commission published with “The European Green Deal” a brief related document entitled “Sustainable Industry” which has a highlighted statement “The Commission will make a proposal to support zero-carbon steel making by 2030.”  

There is ambiguity about whether this means the Commission means steel making to be actually zero-carbon by 2030, or whether by 2030  the Commission means to have a set of programmes to get to zero-carbon steelmaking.  Probably the latter because it would be unrealistic to make such rapid changes to production processes.  However, the EU steelmakers need to take this objective seriously, and potential investors would realise that a new investment in coking coal production would be swimming against the regulatory tide.

The major users of coking coal in the EU

 I have reviewed the climate change strategies of the three biggest steel producers in the EU (Arcelormittal, ThyssenKrupp and Tata Steel).  It is clear that they take seriously the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with internationally agreed targets.  Arcelormittal says “Our most substantial climate related policy risk is the EU ETS which applies to all our European plants.”  EU policy is pushing the producers to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  Arcelormittal stresses that the EU needs also to help the producers towards this objective by introducing a carbon border adjustment mechanism.  

Improved steelmaking technology can help. In recent years producers have made efficiencies by improving the tensile strength of steel, so that less steel is needed to achieve a given result (and therefore less coke needed).

The steel producers have participated in research and development projects partly funded by the EU.  Technologies proposed by the steel producers include:

  • in the short term modifying blast furnaces by injecting hydrogen as a reducing agent.  This would reduce the tonnage of coke required and reduce the CO2 emissions.  Arcelormittal has plants in operation;
  • Arcelormittal’s Torero progammme using waste carbon (for example, wood waste that would be unsuitable for burning in other circumstances) as a reducing agent.  A demonstration plant is being built in Belgium;
  • Modifications to the blast furnace process to produce an exhaust gas which is purer CO2.  This might be transformed into syngas and recycled into the furnace, reducing the need for coke.  Alternatively the purer  exhaust gas might be captured, pumped into underground reservoirs where these are available;
  • The use of hydrogen (rather than a hydrogen/carbon monoxide mix) as a reducing agent in a direct reduction plant.  Arcelormittal proposes to build a test installation in Hamburg;
  • Tata Steel has built pilot plants to test the Hlsarna concept.  This is a furnace operating at very high temperatures fueled by coal rather than coke;
  • In the longer term there are schemes for producing steel by electrolysis, similar to the way that aluminium has been produced since the nineteenth century. 

Hydrogen can be produced by electrolysis of water.  Improvements which require “green” hydrogen depend on the greater availability of electricity from solar or wind power.  These power sources are developing fast but it will take years before there is regular surplus electric power available for large scale electrolysis plants.  

There are few quick easy wins, but regulatory pressure will tend to reduce the demand for coke.

An example of a plant in transformation to lower carbon technology

The ILVA plant in Taranto, Italy, claimed to be the biggest iron and steel plant in the EU with a capacity of over 10 million tonnes of steel per year (though for some years it appears to have operated at well below full capacity).  There were concerns that emissions of dioxins were the cause of a high incidence of cancer in the area.  In 2012 there was an official investigation of environmental crimes.  The coke making plant has been blamed for the toxic emissions.  At one stage court ordered the blast furnaces to be closed down.  Government commissioners took over the plant from the private owners.  There are political tensions between local people concerned about health and those concerned about jobs.

The government sought a private company to take a lease on the plant and operate it.  Arcelormittal was selected as the operator.  The deal has still not been finalised because Arcelormittal will not take responsibility for lawsuits arising from the legacy operations.  In March 2020 Reuters reported that negotiations had progressed and there was a conditional agreement for Arcelormittal to take over and invest in steel production using direct reduction/electric arc furnace technology.  If this agreement is finalized there will no longer be a requirement for coal.

The impact of the coronavirus recession

The financial crisis of 2008 resulted in a reduction in steel output in Europe. Some steel producers are in a weak financial position.  The signs are that the coronovirus recession will be deeper and long lasting.  Marginal steel plants could close.

Potential investors in WCM may therefore hesitate until the outcome is clearer.  

Observations on methane drainage

I note that WCM’s consultants, AECOM, estimate that methane emissions from the mine would constitute 74% of the local greenhouse gas emissions.  In some comments there has been an assumption that methane drainage would solve this problem.  I also note that AECOM make no assumption about a reduction as a result of methane drainage.

When I worked for the National Coal Board fifty years ago the risks of climate change and the problems of methane in the atmosphere were not widely understood.  Mine operators were, however, very concerned about the risk of methane explosions underground. When coal is exposed it leaks methane. The NCB used methane drainage in a few particularly gassy mines in order to reduce the risk of underground explosions.  The technique involved drilling holes into the pillars of coal which were left to support the strata alongside access tunnels.  The holes were connected to pipework and the methane sucked out and used as fuel at the surface.

I understand from the WCM submissions that the coal will be worked by a partial extraction method, which involves leaving a high proportion of coal in pillars to support the roof.  Methane drainage could reduce leakage from these pillars.  I have never heard of it being used at the coalface where the coal is being broken up by coal cutting machinery (and thus emitting most).  Nor could it stop emissions from the broken coal being transported to the surface and onward to the customer.  Methane drainage would only be a partial solution to atmospheric pollution.

Local implications of a project that failed

I understand the need for jobs.  But job creation efforts should be directed towards projects with a better potential for success.  In my career I have seen too many cases where local authority efforts and money have been sucked into promoting ill-conceived projects. 

I would like to speak at the planning meeting.

Yours sincerely

Robert Wharton

Letter of Objection from Local Resident – Please Write, Write Write and Say NO! to the First Deep Coal Mine in Decades

Pow Beck photo

Here is an excellent letter of objection from Martin – a resident living close to the proposed coal mine and associated infrastructure.

Please use Martin’s letter below as inspiration for your own letters of objection to Cumbria County Council (write before the 15th June) – also ask to speak at the meeting on 8th July  – There is  more information here.

PLANNING REFERENCE: 4/17/9007

I object to the building of the Wood House Colliery and the Train Load Facility (TLF), Pow Beck. 

Cumbria’s Statutory Development Plan (SDP)-Cumbria Minerals & Waste Local Plan; POLICY SP15 Environmental Assets. “Protect, maintaintain and enhance people’s overall quality of life and the natural, historic and other distinctive features that contribute to the environment of Cumbria and to the character of its landscapes and places

The leading paragraph of the same SDP reads “…It will always work proactively with applicants to find solutions that mean that proposals can be approved wherever possible, and to secure development that improves economic, social and environmental conditions in the area.

In my opinion the new mine does not meet those three criteria. The mine won’t be successful; environmental pressures will increase; coke is going to be replaced; other coking coal producers from Russia and Poland are already supplying Europe’s steel industry. As a result there are no economic or social gains. Pollution (air, water, noise, light, environmental) to the local area will be significant and as a consequence our quality of life will be affected.

With regard to greenhouse gasses (GHG), West Cumbria Mining (WCM) made it clear they dig out the coal. The GHG created from exporting the coal and the burning of the coal has nothing to do with them.  Another fossil fuel company that absolves itself from responsibility. Yet when it comes to creating an argument they are more than willing to express the saving in GHG from bulk cargo ships from across the Atlantic and the train miles of American coal to make comparisons with their own small coal mine. 

In your own policy DC13 criteria for Energy minerals, part c. “the impacts of the development have been considered in relation to impact on climate change;

In WCM planning statement (5.3.6) “The determination as to whether an impact is `unacceptable` inevitably involves a degree of judgement on the part of the decision maker”  It is my opinion,  the  environmental impact of this Cumbrian coal  is unacceptable in today’s global warming crisis and should and can be rejected in compliance with your own planning documents, particularly the impact Cumbrian coal will have on the environment.

May I also draw your attention to matters which could be of specific interest to committee.

  • Presently we have the peaceful enjoyment of our home here in High Walton, near St Bees. The air is clean, the valley beautiful and quiet. I have the pleasure of enjoying the first small section of Wainwright’s coast to coast on my doorstep. A tourist asset that you should protect. I am appalled that Cumbria County Council (CCC) has allowed this green space in Pow Beck to come under threat with a large coal yard. 
  • West Cumbria Mining’s preferred  freight operator does use some modern trains in its fleet, trains that will pull 21 coal wagons using diesel engine power. The facts are; a train over 400 metres long; carrying +1500 tonnes; emitting 25.3g CO2e per tonne km (1). Those wagons will need shunting to sidings. When diesel engines apply pulling power they emit plumes of diesel smoke. What are those pollution levels for six daily trains + 126 coal wagons when Frieghtliner begins shunting wagons here in Pow Beck?

 

  • The building may be high tech and aesthetic; but in my opinion still noisy in the quiet areas of Pow Beck and Seacliffe. I can’t imagine the Fan House being too quiet. 126 Coal wagons on sidings are hardly inconspicuous in our green landscape. More rhetoric at the expense of local residents. Our environmental assets will change for the worse.
  • Methane capture during coal crushing processing to provide gas energy (5.4.54).  Does the mine capture all this methane and utilize it? 

Methane is “…reduced and mitigated…”  “…with no atmospheric impact…” (P9: Para 29). Burning Methane produces C02; but this won’t happen until the fifth year of operation when the methane capture plant comes on line apparently. WCM planning statement (page 8-S18) “…methane and utilisation plant will potentially eliminate the majority of fugitive methane emissions”. Also, GHG surveyor remarks about methane capture with a statement that reads “…potentially eliminate fugitive emissions…” (P59: para 9.4). So WCM doesn’t actually know how much Methane will vent into the atmosphere, a number between 2m3 and 6m3 per tonne of coal. That seems quite a difference. 

  • My understanding is that the fan house sucks out air/gases from the mine and as a result clean air is drawn into the mine, diluting gases to safe non-combustible levels within the mine. What is not clear to me is where those gases are vented and captured.  Mined coal constantly gives off methane does it not.
  • GHG reports say the mine operation pollution is less than 1% of the UK’s carbon budget. So this small mine will emit less than 1% of the whole of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland with all its cities, transport, power generation and people, just to put in some perspective. This tiny spot in Cumbria will add less than 1% to the UKs carbon budget(CB). According to the Government’s own advisory body the UK is not going to meet its targets for the next two CB (2), The implication is that the 2032 budget will have to be even more stringent and the government more decisive to keep on track for 2050 net zero. Indeed the GHG report states (Para 7,13) “Emissions from this Proposed Development are therefore likely to become significant without an emissions reduction strategy” The GHC report mentions (para 9,4) the assumed operation of methane capture & utilisation plant in 5th year of operation. so obviously under development. Is the technology, the burning of methane and offsetting going to be good enough to keep the mines emissions below 1%? 
  • WCM states that “This substitution of imported coal will result in significant carbon dioxide emissions savings from the shipping…” (Para 4.2.13) At maximum mine production, how many bulk cargo ships will it need to bring the equivalent 2.78million tonnes of coking coal to Europe from America per annum? Seven maybe each carrying 400,000 tonnes? 

Dr. Neil Bristow’s letter says “WCM’s place in the global market is small”. Conversely the emission saved by importing from abroad (America) will also be small. In my opinion the saving of seven Atlantic crossings is small in comparisons to the 300 millions tonnes globally. Lets not forget also that Europe uses coking coal from Russia and Poland. The Polish coal news article was an interesting read (3). European steel may source more coking coal from there.

  • WCM planning application did not give examples of companies using hydrogen for greening steel. In Germany they closed all their deep coal mines and import coking coal. Their economy and steel industry is much larger than the UKs. Already the Germans (Austrian and Swedish also ) have invested in hydrogen plants to produce the gas in abundance and replace coal; most notably ThyssenKrupp(4) and Voestalpine(5) . Clearly these two companies will be producing greener steel in the not too distant future and unburden themselves of coking coal dependency. Spending £65 million creating their hydrogen plant sounds like a pretty serious investment to me.
  • I am not convinced by WCM’s argument on weathering either. The coal suppliers and steel makers have been dealing with weathering for years. I doubt there is little advantage to having another small supplier nearby? WCM coal, like all the other coal heading for Rotterdam, will be piled on the quayside along with American, Russian, Polish, Australian and whoever else, ready to be distributed to Steelworks. Sure the coal has a `shelf life`, but this little coal mine won’t keep the furnaces of Europe going for long. 
  • WCM talks about the coal quality degrading once mined and transported yet In their new application it seems they are requesting a “relaxation” (Welsh Mining Forum-GB, 13th May 2020 @ 05:41pm)(6) to their metallurgical coal definition, , in effect manufacturing a slightly lower quality coal. Also (Planning Statement page 51) Why the removal of a condition that states “the coal is to be used for steel manufacturing only” This smacks of hypocrisy from WCM in my opinion or is that typo error there?
  • In my first letter of objection last year I asked you to refuse this planning application. I am asking again to turn down this coal mine. Coal is not an asset anymore, the planet is warming up and the weather system is more extreme. Fossils fuels have to stay in the ground if the countries that signed up to the Paris Agreement want to meet those global warming targets,
  • In your previous planning application the committee were under the impression that the mine is broadly carbon neutral. A fact denied by WCM and not substantiated by CCC. The mine is not broadly carbon neutral, you are misleading the general public. Therefore, I do not believe the rhetoric from the mine company or their expert; who can’t get his sums right  (page 25, para 8)  2.78mt is not 0.26% of 300mt. 

Local people’s environment is not enhanced in any way. Cumbrian people living beside the mine and the roads and railway that are used by the mine are in for big changes to their environment; There will be more pollution from diesel engines and the mine itself. The roads will be busier at rush hour; More light and noise pollution, and just because it is within regulation limits, it will still be intrusive.

 

  • I read this recently and it has many interesting points.

…Rapidly phasing out fossil fuels is critical to address the climate crisis because fossil fuels are the biggest driver of the climate crisis. Reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change based on the work of thousands of scientists have confirmed there are no scenarios in which we both keep digging out fossil fuels and keep the world from a climate disaster. We must act now, and decisively, to switch to alternative sources of energy”. NEW York Times” (7).

  • Global warming does not stop at Scafell Pike(8), Keep the coal in the ground and do Whitehaven, Cumbria and the planet a favour. Turn down this coal mine by putting your own policy in action and stand by your policy statement SP15 Environmental Assets.

I am happy to attend your committee meeting, Wednesday 8th July 2020 to elaborate on any of the issues I have raised. Please email me, in the first instance if you would like me to attend.

Yours sincerely,

Martin J Kendall

REFERENCES

 

OBJECT!!! To the New Plan for the Coal Mine Before 15th June

Dear Friends,

Thanks to our continued challenges the Developers of the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades have put forward an amended planning application.  The difference with this plan is that the developers propose to make the lower quality middlings coal (previously called a “by product”) into coking coal.

Even if  you have written previously to oppose the plan PLEASE PLEASE write and object again BEFORE 15th June – and ALSO ask to speak at the planning meeting (July 8th).

We have prepared a list of potential issues that you can object to – (this is not an exhaustive list – there are plenty more arguments you can make against this diabolic plan)

So please do use this as inspiration for your own letters of objection.  Even it you can write just a line or two saying that you strongly oppose this plan. – it is all valid and it all helps!!

Send your letters of objection to

developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk

If you have time to write to all the members of the committee then the details are here 

You can tweet Cumbria County Council here ..  @CumbriaCC 

Please include:  West Cumbria Mining – amendment to Application Reference No. 4/17/9007. 

 

OPPOSITION LETTER TO THE COAL MINE

                              

Application Reference No. 4/17/9007. 

Proposal: Development of a new underground metallurgical coal mine and associated development including: the refurbishment of two existing drifts leading to two new underground drifts; coal storage and processing buildings; office and change building; access road; ventilation, power and water infrastructure; security fencing; lighting; outfall to sea; surface water management system and landscaping at the former Marchon site (High Road) Whitehaven; 

  • a new coal loading facility and railway sidings linked to the Cumbrian Coast Railway Line with adjoining office / welfare facilities; extension of railway underpass; security fencing; lighting; landscaping; construction of a temporary development compound, and associated permanent access on land off Mirehouse Road, Pow Beck Valley, south of Whitehaven; and
  • – a new underground coal conveyor to connect the coal processing buildings with the coal loading facility.

West Cumbria Mining have resubmitted this previously unanimously approved appliction with the change that high quality coking coal would now comprise up to 15% of middlings coal processed on site to render it into coking coal.   

OPPOSITION ON THE GROUNDS OF:

Cumbria County Council Minerals and Local Waste Policy DC13 15.16

This proposal will have unacceptable social and environmental impacts which cannot be mitigated against and would fly in the face of Cumbria County’s own Policy DC13   

a. Loss of Ancient Woodland and degradation of remaining woodland area by the proposed rail conveyor  to cut through two areas of woodland.West Cumbria Mining Rail Conveyor

b. Large Coal Yard Sidings and Trains Local residents are opposed to Pow Beck Valley hosting  a large coal yard with six daily coal trains “The facts are; a train over 400 metres long; weighing +1500 tonnes; emitting 25.3g CO2e per tonne km” “126 Coal wagons in their sidings are hardly inconspicuous in our green landscape. More WCM rhetoric at the expense of local residents”.  Local Resident.

c.  Methane Rich coal seams are now safely contained under the Irish Sea. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas.  The developers consultant AECOM has estimated that 74% of the on-site emissions would be the methane emitted from the exposed coal in the mine.  The developers say that “The installation of a methane capture and utilisation plant will potentially eliminate the majority of fugitive methane emissions.”

Methane would continue to be emitted from the broken up coal up till and including the point of use at a steel works.  Methane drainage would potentially only remove a small fraction of total methane.
d.  Zero Carbon Britain – The developers state If the emissions are less than 1% of the relevant carbon budget, the level of significance is considered to be minor adverse”.   In the context of this long lived coal mine this is nonsensical.  The coal mine is set to continue over 70 years.  By peak production the wildly optimistic 1% of UK carbon emissions from this coal mine would be 5%, 10%  – 20% or even more of an otherwise decarbonised Britain.  In June 2019 the UK became the first major economy to pass net zero emissions law.  The new target will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.

e. Carbon Neutral.  Cumbria County Council declared a climate emergency in September 2019 and says it is committed to becoming carbon neutral.  West Cumbria Mining have stated in their amended planning applicationand in response to theGreen Alliance Report, that the Coal Mine would NOT be carbon neutral (despite having previously led people including Cumbria County Council to believe that it would be).  In their amended planning statement West Cumbria Mining propose that they have ongoing monitoring requirements on the Development (from 2033 onwards) in order to stop operations past this date if the coal mine compromises the UK’s ability to meet its emissions targets.  This is disingenous.  Cumbria County Council should be brave enough to call a halt to this coal mine sooner rather than later.  

f.  Subsidence and Cement Paste.  The developers propose to fill the voids left by mining with a cement paste in an effort to avoid subsidence of the vulnerable Irish Sea bed and onshore area.  They say the cement backfill :  “will be primarily targeted to sensitive areas including all onshore panels and selected panels close to the Marine Conservation Zone.”  

The planned annual production after 5 years will reach a steady state and is estimated at 2,780,000 tonnes of metallurgical coal, and 

pastedGraphic.png

150,000 tonnes of reject. The reject will be blended with water and a binder (e.g. cement) and the resultant paste material will be pumped back underground and placed directly behind a working panel as it is mined. When used, the paste will fill an estimated 65 % of the void space behind a worked panel. The use of the paste backfill will significantly increase the stability of mined-out areas and subsidence over backfilled panels will be reduced by at least 65 %. This applies to both single panels and to groups of panels. For example, for a single panel with 65 % backfill the maximum vertical displacement will be reduced from 21 cm to 9 cm. There will be sufficient paste produced each year to fill two of the eight panels mined each year, i.e. 25 % of panels will be backfilled. Backfill will be primarily targeted to sensitive areas includ- ing all onshore panels and selected panels close to the MCZ.

(MCZ referee to Marine Conservation Zone – quote above from WCM Process Change_R10) 

image
Marine Conservation Zone Areas – Map by North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation

 

Where is West Cumbria Mining's Plan
This is the area of West Cumbria Mining’s Plan

Cement Paste Backfill (of the “panels” – the voids left by the mining process)   is a relatively new and unstable process.  “many factors such as sulfate presence, geothermal factors, and rock pressure in a mine water context have significant effects on the properties of Cement Paste Backfill.”   The last thing needed near the Sellafield nuclear waste plant is a new coal mine with unstable ‘cement paste backfill.’

The Colourful Coast Partnership has noted that : “The impact of any level of subsidence upon the terrestrial or marine hertiage assets and designated sites and landscapes could be significant and permanent, therefore having a detrimental impact…the history of contamination of watercourses in the area raises concerns…”

The Irish Sea bed has been in reciept of Sellafield’s reprocessing wastes for many decades and any resuspension of those radioactive and chemical wastesis to be avoided.

Local planning authorities such as Cumbria County Council are required to have regard to the prevention of major accidents and limiting their consequences.They must also consider the long-term need for appropriate distances between hazardous establishments and population or environmentally sensitive areas. They must also consider whether additional measures for existing establishments are required so that risks to people in the area are not increased.   Sellafield is less than five miles from the area of mining proposed in the WCM development.  We have seen no detailed risk assessments for this.

g.  “Water is heavily used in coal processing”   Exactly how much Groundwater would the mine abstract daily from the Byerstead Fault at full peak production ?  West Cumbria Mining have not given any indication of fresh water abstraction. No research has been done on the hydrological and geological impact of this abstraction from the Byerstead Fault?   

“Water is heavily used in coal processing and would be obtained from the following sources:

    • Groundwater (Byerstead Fault)
    • Recycled from the CHPP
    • Mine water ingress
    • Moisture in the coal
    • Harvested rain-water “

(WCM presentation to CCC 19th March 2019)

h.  Blight from Construction and operation.  West Cumbria Mining’s own Environmental Assessement says “the construction and operational activities of the proposals ‘have the potential to generate a number of land contamination related adverse impacts on identified receptors.’ And that “the significance of residual effects related to potential geological and contamination related impacts associated with the Proposal during the construction and operation phases are likely to be minor or moderate adverse, and therefore not significant.”  The blight for  people living near the proposal would be Very Significant. The would experience the coal mine blight of toxic mine tailings, coal dust, chemical pollution,  rail wagons,  and associated noise.  The beginning of the first section of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk would be impacted by the noise and disturbance of the coal mine’s rail loading facility.  Should Cumbria County Council approve this plan they would be in contravention of Cumbria’s Statutory Development Plan (SDP)-Cumbria Minerals & Waste Local Plan; POLICY SP15 Environmental Assets. “Protect, maintaintain and enhance people’s overall quality of life and the natural, historic and other distinctive features that contribute to the environment of Cumbria and to the character of its landscapes and places

 

 NOTE:

Cumbria County Council Minerals and Local Waste Policy DC13 15.16

“Planning applications for coal extraction will only be granted where; 

  •  the proposal would not have any unacceptable social or environmental impacts; or, if not
  • it can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or, if not
  • it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh the likely impacts to justify the grant of planning permission.
  • For underground coal mining, potential impacts to be considered and mitigated for will include the effects of subsidence including: the potential hazard of old mine workings; the treatment and pumping of underground water; monitoring and preventative measures for potential gas emissions; and the disposal of colliery spoil. Provision of sustainable transport will be encouraged, as will Coal Mine Methane capture and utilisation.”

 

Methane Shock

image.png

Dear Friends,

Big Thank You to All – We are keeping the CrowdJustice page open a while longer to keep folk updated and to keep on raising awareness about the insanity of this coal mine.Cumbria would be the ONLY place in the UK to have ANY deep mining going on. West Cumbria Mining plan to mine for coking and industrial coal in the “gassiest pit in the kingdom”. West Cumbria is the place where the Davey Lamp was tested out because methane is so prevalent under the Irish Sea bed.

A recent article in The Ecologist explains why methane – always known to be a dangerous gas is more dangerous than we thought. Stopping the Coal Mine in Cumbria just got a whole lot more urgent.

Extract

“Scientists have been vastly underestimating the amount of methane humans are emitting into the atmosphere through fossil fuels, according to research.

Analysis published in the journal Nature shows methane emissions from fossil fuels owing to human activity is around 25 percent to 40 percent higher than thought.

But researchers believe their findings offer hope, saying stricter regulations to curb methane emissions could help reduce future global warming to “a larger extent than previously thought”.

Ice core

Benjamin Hmiel, a professor of earth and environmental science at the University of Rochester and one of the study authors, said: “I don’t want to get too hopeless on this because my data does have a positive implication: most of the methane emissions are anthropogenic, so we have more control.

“If we can reduce our emissions, it’s going to have more of an impact.”

Read the Full Article HERE

Cumbrian Coal Deposits are Methane Rich – Leave them in the Ground!

Old King Coal
Old King Coal (from Comic Vine)

KEEP OLD KING COAL IN THE HOLE!

The Cumbrian Coal deposits under the Irish Sea off St Bees are methane rich.  West Cumbria Mining’s proposed development has already released an unknown quantity of methane from beneath the Irish Sea bed when it hit a methane gas pocket whilst carrying out exploration back in 2017:  ” drilling operations from a jack-up barge had struck a gas pocket approximately one nautical mile from St Bee’s Head. The drilling is part of a programme of exploration work to support a new coal mining project in west Cumbria…Local authorities, fire rescue, police and the Environment Agency were all informed.”

Now in 2019 West Cumbria Mining have been given the green light by Cumbria County Council to continue their release of methane which is currently safely contained deep beneath the Irish Sea bed.

It was due to this area’s methane rich status that the famous safety Davy Lamp was tested out right here in West Cumbria!

Today’s Guardian reports that : “Methane emissions from coalmines could stoke climate crisis…Millions of tonnes belched into atmosphere as bad as shipping and aviation emissions combined, researchers find”

“Dave Jones, an analyst at the climate thinktank Sandbag, said the report proves the global coal industry “is even more polluting than we thought” and should face tougher regulation.”

“It found that deeper coal seams tend to contain more methane than shallower seams, while older seams have higher methane content than younger seams. The findings were applied across all countries with coalmines to estimate the global scourge of coalmine methane.”

READ THE FULL GUARDIAN REPORT HERE

Interesting bit about the Davy lamp here

“In 1816, the Cumberland Pacquet reported a demonstration of the Davy lamp at William Pit, Whitehaven. Placed in a blower “… the effect was grand beyond description. At first a blue flame was seen to cap the flame of the lamp, – then succeeded a lambent flame, playing in the cylinder; and shortly after, the flame of the firedamp expanded, so as to completely fill the wire gauze. For some time, the flame of the lamp was seen through that of the firedamp, which became ultimately extinguished without explosion. Results more satisfactory were not to be wished…”[11] Another correspondent to the paper commented “The Lamp offers absolute security to the miner… With the excellent ventilation of the Whitehaven Collieries and the application of Sir HUMPHRY’s valuable instrument, the accidents from the explosion of’ (carburetted) ‘hydrogene which have occurred (although comparatively few for such extensive works) will by this happy invention be avoided”.[11]

Unfortunately, this prediction was not fulfilled: in the next thirty years, firedamp explosions in Whitehaven pits cost 137 lives.[12]:139 More generally, the Select Committee on Accidents in Mines reported in 1835 that the introduction of the Davy lamp had led to an increase in mine accidents;[9]:130 the lamp encouraged the working of mines and parts of mines that had previously been closed for safety reasons.[13]”

 

PLEASE Support our legal fight against a new coal mine in Cumbria

Support our Legal Fight Against a New Coal Mine in Cumbria

SUPPORT OUR LEGAL FIGHT AGAINST A NEW COAL MINE IN CUMBRIA

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Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – demonstration back in 2017

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Many groups including KCCH and individuals demonstrating outside Cumbria County Council offices on the day of ratification 31st October 2019

NEW – LEGAL CHALLENGE – We need your help. 

Check out the CrowdJustice page here – we have donated £50 already but- we need £5000 to take forward the Legal Challenge.  If you cannot donate then please do share and get the message out that this fight against the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades is far from over.

Thank you to Lawyers Leigh Day who have already put so much work into paving the way and ensuring a legal challenge is possible.

UPDATE: What a rollercoaster!  Firstly on 31st October we had an amazing demonstration of opposition outside Cumbria County Council offices with many groups and individuals taking part to show the strength of feeling against this coal mine.  This was despite the fact that we only found out last minute by accident about the ‘ratification’ meeting for the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.  As you will have heard the committee again voted unanimously to pass the plans…shocking!  Then on the same day as the much publicised announcement on the halt to fracking there was a much more subdued announcement that the Secretary of State will not call in Cumbria County Council’s outrageous decision on the coal mine for a public inquiry.

Thank you so much for the donations so many of you have already made for the initial advice from top lawyers Leigh Day.  This has been of such enormous value and has paved the way for a legal challenge so we can continue to fight this terrible plan..

A new crowd justice fundraiser is now live and can be found here.  We now need to up the ante and raise enough funds to cover the costs of a full legal challenge. We can’t do it without your help.  If you can share the page or donate no matter how small the donation then please do.

If this coal mine is not stopped the carbon emissions alone would be likely to result over its lifetime to one full year of UK national emissions.  This is crazy given that the UK government has declared a climate emergency.

Not only would this coal mine produce 9 million tonnes of CO2 emissions every year (not including methane, radon etc)  but the plan is to extend mining activity under the Irish Sea to within 5 miles of Sellafield.

The results of induced seismic events of any magnitude at the worlds riskiest nuclear waste site could be catastrophic on a planetary scale.

There are so many reasons to oppose this coal mine plan from climate catastrophe to nuclear catastrophe.  That is why we are  campaigning hard to stop the plan.

Please check out the CrowdJustice Page  and PLEASE continue to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole!   All donations made will go direct to the legal challenge!

With Many Thanks!!!

Marianne

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign

Ratification of Coal Mine? NO!! NO!! NO!!

sent to press

COUNCIL PLAN TO RATIFY OUTRAGEOUS ‘YES’ TO COAL MINE 

Back in spring of this year the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades was given unanimous approval by Cumbria County Council. 

COKING COAL AND JOBS.

Following the threat of legal action by campaigners Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, the Council have nervously decided that they need to ratify their approval.  Their unanimous approval was based on the need for coking coal and jobs in the West Cumbrian town of Whitehaven.  Coal mining ceased in Whitehaven in 1986 when the Haig Pit closed.  Since then this harbour town has increasingly become a satellite of Sellafield with new offices being built by demolishing heritage architecture and decanting workers from the nuclear waste site.  One of the trendy new offices housing Sellafield staff is adjacent to a foul chimney which has been left as a feature.  The foul chimney originally vented methane out of the old mines. 

Foul Chimney and Sellafield Office

OUTRAGE

Following the council’s decision based on the ‘need for jobs and coking coal’ there was outrage expressed in a previously rather muted national press despite letters to The Guardian and others.  Perhaps because of this outrage and surprise that plans for a coal mine under the Irish Sea bed should be approved, the then Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP issued a ‘holding direction’ under article 31 of the Town and Country Planning Order 2015. This prevents the release of the Council’s decision until the Secretary of States decides whether to call in the application for public inquiry.  

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Demo outside County Offices, Kendal prior to the 19th March unanimous approval vote by Cumbria County Council .

LAWYERS LEIGH DAY

The letter sent to Cumbria County Council on 20th June from lawyers Leigh Day opens the way for legal action in the form of a  Judicial Review should the Secretary of State not call in the decision.  Leigh Day’s letter which was made possibe through crowdfunding by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole informs the County Council of a number of flaws and omissions in their planning assessment.  The letter invites the Committee to formally re-consider its approval.

These flaws include Cumbria County Council’s failures to consider:

  1. Green house gas emissions of the mining operations
  2. The need for, and GHG impacts of, Middlings Coal
  3. GHG impacts of an increase in coal production.

Demo in Whitehaven following the Council's Decision

Demo in Whitehaven attended by various groups, following the County Council’s ‘Yes’ vote

The letter from Leigh Day states in conclusion: 

“For the reasons given above, KCCH formally requests that the Committee reconsiders its resolution to grant planning permission for the Whitehaven Coalmine development and asks that the Committee has full regard to each of the considerations listed above when it does so.” 

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Demonstrators in Whitehaven after the Council’s ‘Yes’vote

WHAT HAS CHANGED SINCE THE COUNCIL’S DECISION?

Since Leigh Day wrote their letter putting the council ‘on notice’ of legal action in June for their flawed decision in March there have been further developments.

This makes Javelin Global Commodities a venture capital company that sees coal and nuclear hand in hand.  Murray Energy is on the verge of bankruptcy having left a trail of devastation in the US and is looking to squeeze the pips out of other stressed communities such as that of West Cumbria which is already suffering from the skewed socio-economics of nuclear.  Uniper, the subsidiary of the Finnish state operated nuclear corporation Fortum, has recently produced a briefing paper of “analysis and recommendations to assist investors, insurers and banks in achieving a coal phase-out from Fortum and Uniper in line with the climate targets of the UN Paris Climate Agreement and protecting citizen’s health”.   OK so why are they investing in a coal mine?

The civil society nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland was founded over 10 years ago out of sheer frustration over the lack of unequivocal opposition to the government’s ‘Managing Radioactive Wastes Safely’ plan for geological ‘disposal’ of intermediate and high level nuclear wastes.  Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole is another Radiation Free Lakeland campaign that was borne out of similar frustrations with seeing West Cumbria Mining get away with outragous PR spin for its mine proposal just five miles from Sellafield.   Marianne Birkby the founder of Radiation Free Lakeland says “the plan for the mined out Irish Sea bed is to hyraulically backfill the mine with goodness knows what into the voids.  Adding nuclear partners into the mix inspires apprehension that there is more to this coal mine than meets the eye and what meets the eye really is bad enough!”

Campaigners are urging people to contact Cumbria County Council with their opposition to ratification of the coal mine plan.  People can email the Development Control Committee developmentcontrol@cumbria.gov.uk asking that this outrageous coal mine plan is not ratified

The meeting will be in Kendal County Offices  on 31st Oct with a demonstration outside the offices from 8.30am.  Campaigners hope  that as many people as can get to Kendal  County Offices on 31st October will come along and demand that the Council do not ratify the decision to open the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.

A petition of almost 2000 signatures has also been handed to Tim Farron MP by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole to give to the Secretary of State asking him to call the decision in for a public inquiry.

https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/keep-cumbrian-coal-in-the-hole-its-too-near-sellafield#_=_

Uniper/Fortum briefing paper

 https://beyond-coal.eu/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/EBC_Fortum_Uniper_briefing_paper.pdf