The Coal Mine is generating reams of copy in the press and much grandstanding by so many.
One comment by a reporter I spoke to back in 2018 caught my eye. Back in 2018 I described to the reporter the coal mine in all its glory – the carbon and methane emissions, the loss of ancient woodland and most importantly the proximity to Sellafield and the mine’s location under the radioactive wastes on the seabed ( we didn’t know then that the CEO of the coal mine was going to be employed as nuclear dump advisor to Govnt). This reporter was literally begged to actually report on the Cumbria coal mine. His reply to me was: “we shall circle round to the coal mine when the decision has been taken.” The Fake News is that the Nuclear aspects of this coal mine – the dangers and the cronyism are still being wilfully hidden from public view.
The reporter was then the Environment reporter for the Guardian. This is my reply to his tweet today
As representative of the first group opposing the coal mine I was phoned up by Radio 5 Live last night to expect a call this morn at 7.35am to talk on their breakfast show.
The researcher wanted to know what I would be highlighting – I said we had already lobbied to have a traffic light system for earthquakes (brushed aside by the Planning Inspector as part of the conditions on the coal mine) and we would now push hard for that as coal produces more earthquakes than fracking.
Unlike fracking there is no traffic light system in place to halt coal operations should earthquakes occur and that this is especially important as the coal mine is just a few miles from Sellafield.
Also that the coal boss is the government’s nuclear dump advisor appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste management in 2019 to deliver a Geological Disposal Facility. This should make the Govnts approval of the coal mine null and void ethically (cronyism) and possibly legally- anyway -needless to say they havn’t rung up but have gone with the ‘safe pair of hands’ of Friends of the Earth who keep to the safe narrative of climate, steel and jobs.
I was also going to say that the coal mine would produce 400,000 tonnes of CO2 a year – this pales to the nuclear waste industry’s 1,046,950 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) a year – from the NDA “Using Greenhouse Gas Protocol methodology, the total NDA group carbon footprint for 2019/20 is 1,046,950 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e)” and the coal boss has been appointed to advise that industry!
The researcher said he didn’t know about all that and agreed it was scandalous – the BBC obviously still don’t want to expose the full truth about the coal mine which is great for our nuclear obsessed govnt..
The following comment has been put on yesterday’s Channel 4 News Item on YouTube ….and appears to have been removed by Channel 4 – why ? As an experiment please could readers put a comment on the Ch4 YouTube article below pointing out that the Coal Boss Mark Kirkbride is advising government on mass void removal under the Irish Sea for a Geological Disposal Facility aka a deep nuclear dump. Lets see if any comments on this will be ‘allowed’.
“The Steel Industry does not need Cumbrian Coal – BUT – the Nuclear Industry sure as hell does! The first to oppose the coal mine were nuclear safety campaigners who advised back in 2017 that the coal was high ash and high sulphur ie not attractive to steel makers. The Coal Mine CEO has been employed by Government to advise the Nuclear Industry on the digging of big holes for heat generating nuclear wastes. The area in the frame for a deep nuclear dump happens to overlap the area of the coal mine called Offshore Area No 2 – ie the area nearest Sellafield which has largely no known coal resource . The latest is that the Irish Sea will be seismically tested for a deep nuclear dump this July – the coal mine Offshore Area No 2 is in the area being tested…no UK media has reported on this nuclear cronyism or the seismic testing due to start in July. The reporting on the coal mine has been facile with the original nuclear safety campaigners voices being drowned out in order to create a protective shield over the nuclear industry’s vested interests. https://www.change.org/p/save-the-whale-and-the-snail-stop-nuclear-waste-services-blasting-the-irish-sea
We have heard on the grapevine that the Planning Inspector Stephen Normington will announce his recommendation on the Cumbria Coal Mine plan tomorrow – the same day as the Energy Security Strategy is to be announced.
The following are some personal thoughts….
The timing suggests that the Planning Inspector will recommend approval – its always a good day to bury bad news in the midst of a whole raft of bad news. We hope beyond hope that the Planning Inspector will recommend refusal…but given the governmental push for new nuclear and the fact that the CEO of the Coal Mine is a key advisor on the (pro-nuclear government’s) ‘necessity’ of putting nuclear waste “away,” we suspect the former.
Approval of the coal mine would help the government push through on its nuclear plans as the condemnation regarding the coal mine would include the ire of well known talking heads both nationally and internationally and that ire would enjoy blanket media coverage (unlike the ire against nuclear). Similarly with the recent announcement that fracking might not be dead and buried. The campaign agenda for activists and the public can easily be coralled narrowly into coal and fracking with celebrities and headlines – leaving the campaigners fighting to end the poisoning of the populace and the planet, from nuclear, in a very hard place.
It is heart breaking that mainstream NGOs have comprehensively ignored the nuclear aspects of this coal mine, its close proximity to Sellafield, its location under the radioactively contaminated Cumbrian Mud Patch and the appointment of the coal boss and his head of operations to the nuclear waste plans. The public have been steered away from the cold hard truth about this coal mine and it has done no-one apart from the nuclear industry and our pro-nuclear government any favours. If that sounds bitter it isn’t – it is beyond bitterness.
Here’s hoping that the Inspector recommends refusal.
The following is a letter to MP Tim Farron, following a reply from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change, to our unanswered questions.
Thank you for sight of the reply from Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change.
It was good to hear the Minister say that “I would like to reassure your constituents that Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), the developer of the GDF, has absolutely no plans to consider coal mines for the geological disposal of radioactive waste, because they are simply not suitable. ” We agree that no one in their right mind – even those focussed on “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility would consider putting a GDF in the vicinity of a coal mine, let alone putting heat generating nuclear waste into a coal mine. This said we have to ask: Why is the coal mine slap bang in the middle of the Cumbria Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when this subsea methane rich and faulted area is clearly “not suitable” for a GDF ?
CRONYISM – THE MOST BLATANT EXAMPLE EVER IN UK HISTORY?
This question of the relationship between the GDF and the Coal Mine has added piquancy given that the said Coal Mine is the business interest of Mark Kirkbride who is advising the Minister on the GDF having been appointed to a number of key positions on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. The Minister does not address the thorny issue of coal/nuclear/private/public cronyism in her reply to you.
To reiterate: In 2011 the same year Charles Hendry MP was prematurely congratulating Cumbria Council on their ‘steps towards geological disposal of hot nuclear wastes’, he was also cutting the ribbon on one Mark Kirkbride’s venture as CEO at Itmsoil a Sussex based International company specialising in instrumentation measuring stress in large scale construction projects. Mark Kirkbride’s Itmsoil company went into Administration in 2014 in order to give ”protection from creditors.” Charles Hendry was the predecessor of Anne-Marie Trevelyan MP, he was doing her job with the same responsibility for both the GDF and the Coal Authority.
FINANCIALLY VIABLE ?
The Minister states that the Coal Authority has to be satisfied that the coal mine must prove its financial viability before licences can be issued. We have previously made the point that the coking coal from this mine would not be the premium quality product first vaunted by WCM but would be of a high ash and high sulphur content and most likely unsaleable (as coking coal).
The latest accounts from West Cumbria Mining clearly state that the company is financially unviable. Staff have been laid off, the office in Haywards Heath has closed, the secretive financial backer is prepared to stand the cost until the end of the planning process and a third party funder says they are prepared to fund development, whatever that development is as we have not been given sight of it.
In fact No one has had sight of the latest licence applications from WCM as the Coal Authority is deferring to Mark Kirkbride’s wish not to make his development plans public. Given the relationship between WCM, CoRWM and with BEIS who have ultimate responsibility for both the Coal Authority and CoRWM this is an example of epic cronyism WCM have made much of employment of the local workforce but the Directors have a past record of using administration tactics to avoid paying creditors and then rise phoenix like into another incarnation. The amount of money spent by WCM on political lobbying (New Century Media/Tony Lodge – cosy visits by Mark Kirkbride with MP Trudy Harrison to BEIS) is in the £millions. It is clear that PR and political and financial chicanery is more important than keeping the WCM office staff on.
The paperwork has already been put into place by WCM to ensure that when it all goes pear shaped (or to plan?) WCM’s land and assets go to EMR Capital who are acting on behalf of other parties.
Further Questions include:
Why is Mark Kirkbride’s coal mine included slap bang in the middle of the Irish Sea “search area” for a GDF when as the Minister has confirmed this subsea methane rich and heavily faulted area is clearly “not suitable” ?
Why has the Coal Authority not stepped in already Blocked the Licences and prevented an expensive public inquiry for a development that local planners no longer support and is financially insecure? WCM’s latest accounts indicate financial insecurity with staff lay offs to “cut costs.” The coal mine with its high ash and high sulphur coal is no longer/never was financially viable.
Finally and perhaps most importantly but most ignored, Sellafield’s infrastructure just five miles away is at serious risk from this coal mine (notwithstanding the nonchalance of the Office for Nuclear Regulation). On the Sellafield site, the Magnox Swarf Silo for example has unknown leaks from unknown cracks in the concrete containment which is partly beneath ground. Sellafield have last month asked for help in finding and mitigating the leak of 550 gallons per day of radioactive liquor into groundwater beneath the site from unknown cracks. Fracking was halted because of earthquake risk and yet the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering have stated that coal mining induced earthquakes are of a magnitude greater than fracking : “Seismicity induced by hydraulic fracturing is likely to be of smaller magnitude than the UK’s largest natural seismic events and those induced by coal mining”. Sellafield is on the Lake District Boundary Fault and WCM plans to abstract profligate amounts of ground water from their newly voided mine via the Byerstead Fault – no one knows how these faults relate to each other. Why aren’t lessons being learnt in the Sellafield area from the fracking experience in the Blackpool area when coal mine induced seismicity is of a magnitude greater than that of fracking?
Many thanks for persisting with our questions to Ministers.
Thank you for your email dated 11 May, to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP, on behalf of your constituents, regarding the West Cumbria Mine. I am responding as this matter falls within my Ministerial portfolio.
The Coal Authority’s duties about licensing are set out in statute – in the 1994 Coal Industry Act – and to operate a coal mine an operator needs relevant rights and permissions including planning permission, a licence from the Coal Authority and to notify the Health and Safety Executive.
In general terms planning permission covers local social, economic and environmental aspects – i.e. is this the right place for this activity? whereas, a coal mining licence considers practicalities – can the mine operate in a way that is effective and financially underpinned to ensure that any land or property impacted can be compensated and the mine eventually closed in a safe and appropriate way. The Health and Safety Executive considers whether the operations can be undertaken safely.
When assessing an application for a coal mining licence, the Coal Authority are required to consider:
Whether the applicant can finance coal mining operations and related liabilities
The nature of the land or property that may be impacted by subsidence and that damage can be properly compensated by the operator.
That the operation will be carried out by properly experienced people In the case of West Cumbria Mining, this is what the Coal Authority will be assessing in consideration of the operator’s application to extend the term of their conditional licences. A conditional licence does not allow coal mining operations to commence (the purpose of a conditional licence is explained in the link above). As you are aware, planning permission for this mine is subject to an inquiry and it would not be appropriate to comment on the outcome of that but as outlined above, the Coal Authority assesses applications to it based on the duties set out in its enabling legislation.
To disclose the financial matters and commercial activity of the mine operator would be a breach of confidence to the clauses within their licence and their commercial interests. The Coal Authority also has a duty under S59 of the Coal Industry Act 1994 to ensure that it maintains confidentiality in respect of the business affairs of any individual or a business. Whilst the Coal Authority may be asked to input on aspects such as the history of the site or the quality of the coal, its processes are distinct and separate to that of planning and therefore any planning enquiry.
Given the Coal Authority’s duties under s59 of the Coal Industry Act, the Coal Authority have advised they would not disclose details of the application without the applicant’s consent.
Your constituents are also concerned that the coal mining licence applications are in some way linked to the process to find a site for a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).
I would like to reassure your constituents that Radioactive Waste Management Ltd (RWM), the developer of the GDF, has absolutely no plans to consider coal mines for the geological disposal of radioactive waste, because they are simply not suitable.
The process to identify a site for a GDF is based on positive support from a willing community together with a suitable site. No sites have yet been selected. Two Working Groups (the first formal step in the process) have been formed in West Cumbria – in Allerdale and in Copeland – with more expected to be announced in England later this year. It is the Working Groups which will identify the initial search areas for a location for the GDF. The site selection process will stretch over several years and the decision to go ahead at a prospective location will ultimately be subject to a test of public support. It can only proceed if the community wishes it to proceed.
Thank you once again for taking the time to write. I hope you will find this reply helpful. Yours sincerely,
THE RT HON ANNE-MARIE TREVELYAN MP
Minister of State for Energy, Clean Growth and Climate Change
As you know, with the help of many individuals and organisations we have been successful in persuading Cumbria County Council to withdraw their support for the Cumbrian Coal Mine. However the battle is not over yet and another may have just begun.
No doubt you will have seen and heard some of the recent media coverage ranging from Women’s Hour to the ‘Long Read’ in the Guardian. This is brilliant in one way as the coal mine went for so long without any criticism at all from the media or NGOs. There are however high level omissions in all the reporting and I fear that our Government are only too happy for the focus to be myopically on climate rather than the blatant cronyism of the coal mine boss having been appointed to ADVISE the government on nuclear dump plans. How on earth can the forthcoming public inquiry be impartially decided upon by a government minister when the most powerful tier of government, the Dept of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is taking advice from the coal mine boss, Mark Kirkbride? Not only that but the Coal Authority (who are under BEIS) are deferring to the coal boss’s wish not to place the new Coal Authority licence applications in the public domain. Again how on earth can there be a public inquiry in which the public don’t know what the developer has planned?
We are countering these high level omissions but as nuclear safety campaigners with Radiation Free Lakeland (who took on the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign in 2017) our public reach is small.
Please write to your MP, (and anyone else you can think of – letters to the press etc ). asking them the following questions:
2. How can the Public Inquiry be in any way open and honest when the public and presumably the Planning Inspector are not being allowed sight of the developer’s latest applications for Coal Authority Licences, including in subsea areas of the Irish Sea where there is no coal reserve. The Coal Authority have confirmed that they are deferring to the developer, West Cumbria Mining, who want to keep the licences confidential – even redacted public access has been refused.
Dig Coal to Save the Climate ( May 27th 2021 The Long Read by Rebecca Willis) could be titled Dig Holes to Hide Nuclear Waste. Way back in 2018 I wrote a letter to the Guardian exposing the dodgy coal mine plan (Cumbrian coal must stay in the ground where it belongs – Letters Wed 28 Mar 2018). Truths yet to be exposed by mainstream journalists include: Sellafield (five miles away) fully supports the mine; the Coal Authority (who report to BEIS) handed developers the £2.5 Million Heritage Lottery Funded Haig Colliery Mining Museum and Land for £1; and most concerning the coal mine boss Mark Kirkbride has been appointed to advise Government on “Delivery” of a deep nuclear dump for heat generating wastes i.e. a “Geological Disposal Facility.” Back in 1997 Cumbria County Council opposed Government plans (NIREX) for a Rock Characterisation Facility to test out Cumbria’s complex geology for a deep nuclear dump. West Cumbria Mining have, since 2013, when they were given a free pass by the Coal Authority to drill ‘exploratory’ boreholes along the West Coast of Cumbria, achieved what NIREX failed to do. Rock characterisation core samples are now stacked in boxes, like the final scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark, in the Haig Colliery Mining Museum. The Government’s Committee on Radioactive Waste Management have asked the coal boss, Mark Kirkbride, to give costings on the digging of a big hole for a deep nuclear dump. The nuclear dump is, we are told possible under the Irish Sea bed adjacent to the coal mine. The same coal mine that will now be decided upon by Government (who are employing the coal boss as advisor). Cronyism doesn’t get any more blatant. There are high level omissions in the Long Read.
Hurray! We have reached our first hurdle and now have the means to look at a legal challenge with the help of top lawyers Leigh Day. Thank you very much to all who have been sharing and donating. The response so far has been truly remarkable and generous. Please do keep sharing the CrowdJustice page.
I have drawn a quick map to show just how under threat the Irish Sea is. There are individual ‘official’ maps of all these things, Coal Mine plan, Marine Conservation Zone, Cumbrian Mud Patch and Geological Disposal Facility ‘possible’ site – but this is the first time all the elements have been put together on one (felt tip pen!) map.
It seems that the much hyped Marine Conservation Zone status, which is supposed to act as “protection” for the Irish Sea coastal zone, counts for zilch when big business with big vested interests and political/industrial lobbyists are involved. The regulatory bodies have rolled over despite the “protected status” and Cumbria County Council have rolled with them. How ironic that one of the first voices calling this horrible coal mine out was not the conservation bodies who have campaigned vigorously for the protection of the Irish Sea coastal area of Cumbria, but the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority. The very industry that the Marine Conservation Zones were designed to protect the sea from overfishing, were the first ones calling this mad bad coal mine plan out.
The map also shows the insane plan for a geological disposal facility for heat generating nuclear wastes. The Irish Sea is under threat from this too with the new push to find a “willing community” who will roll over with the offer of ongoing “compensation” – or to use the vernacular – bribes (with public money). The definition of “community” has not been revealed and although the Chief Executive Officer of West Cumbria Mining has said “the coal mine has nothing to do with GDF plans” the circumstantial evidence that it is indeed linked is there to see.
The CEO of West Cumbria Mining is giving a talk in March 2021 (see below)- not about the coal mine you understand but about the government plans to get shot of the heat generating nuclear wastes which have been stacking up at Sellafield over several decades, ( in order to make more of them with new civil/military nuclear build from Hinkley, BAE et al.) The coal boss’s business interests (not confined to coal) would likely be first in line for the eye watering nuclear waste big bucks courtesy of the public purse.
This coal mine is more than meets the eye -and what meets the eye is shocking enough – 3 million tonnes of coal every year being mined out under the Irish Sea and shunted through the complex geology of the “protected Marine Conservation Zone” for decades to come?
Thanks to you we still have a chance to stop this coal mine (and it seems much else besides!)
“Development of a Deep Geological Disposal Facility for Nuclear Waste in the UK
Mark Kirkbride, Member on the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management (CoRWM)
15th March 2021 7:30pm by Zoom
Since the late 1940’s the UK has been involved in nuclear science and engineering, with the creation of waste being an integral part of that industry. There has been significant focus upon long-term storage and disposal of this nuclear waste inventory. The talk will seek to explain the types of nuclear waste, historical background and work towards the development of a deep geological disposal facility in the UK for disposal of nuclear waste.”
note: Mark Kirkbride is also the CEO of West Cumbria Mining
This is a first hand account of a recent “Protest Jog” – I never knew Jonathon Swift stayed in Whitehaven – it is easy to see how the young Swift could have conceived Lilliput looking down upon Whitehaven Harbour. Thanks to “The Jogger”
“My Protest jog today begins on the Mirehouse Road. This small road is the main access for the Coal Loading Facility and the Coal mine. I am starting my jog at the entrance to the Coal Loading Facility (Coal Yard)
From here it is almost all uphill to the coal mine site 3KM away. To reach this point in your articulated truck from the main road involves a twisty descent and negotiating a narrow bridge. I draw your attention to this point as recently our council here turned down a housing estate development because of the increase in traffic. No such objection from our borough council for the Mirehouse Road. The residents are in for big changes if this mine is allowed to go ahead.
I start my climb, up to the St Bees Road, past the new housing estate of EdgeHill and up towards the Coal Mine site. Don’t bother looking for any housing estates in the latest aerial pictures of the coal mine, the houses nearby are airbrushed from existence on West Cumbria Minings website. I run past the mine, no poster to put in place today from Keep the Coal in the Hole, today I am heading for a little bit more of our coal mining heritage.
Saltom Mine was England’s first undersea coal mine, started in 1729. It took three years to dig the mine shaft. It is a heritage site, but visiting is very difficult as the access path has washed away with heavy rainfall. I would not recommend a closer inspection, they have left the monument to the sea and is a very unsafe structure.
Just a short distance away is the HQ to West Cumbria Mining at Haig Pit. I drop off a badge for the CEO and advisor to the Nuclear Disposal group, Mr Kirkbride. Of all the tunnelling experts in all the world they had to pick one who wants to build a coal mine.
I head for Whitehaven and take in the view of Candlestick Chimney and Jonathan Swift’s house. It is reputed that the young Jonathan Swift, having been kidnapped by his nanny, lived in this house overlooking the harbour. Could Whitehaven have been the inspiration for Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels. Possible, looking down on the harbour from this lofty height.
The Candlestick Chimney of the former Wellington Pit did catch fire in 1990 when the gases from the coal mine were ignited from a lightning strike. So even today this old coal mine is still polluting the atmosphere. I don’t descend into Whitehaven today for a look at the mermaid, instead I head back under the railway brake that used to deliver coal from Haigh Pit to the harbour and back up to Kells. I want to look closer at another piece of art at Greenbank. A bit more climbing yet to do
The work depicts the legend of a goblet through an industrial age. The artist has painted it to show the transition of Whitehaven from a grim and filthy industrial past into a bright future. The coal mining technology may have changed but the pollution it creates has not. The modern coal mine’s technology only mitigates the pollution, can only offset the carbon emissions. I don’t think the technology or the offsetting is good enough. As the Mining companies consultant tells us, globally 300 million tonnes of coal is exported annually, we should be reducing this. Quickly. As the Chairman to the Development Committee says, the world does not need another Coking Coal Mine. How right he is, what a shame the majority of his committee colleagues see it differently.
Nearly back to my starting point now at Mirehouse Pond, just a short ascent and then it’s downhill all the way. I have run 9.7KM, time for a lie down.
And so the decsion falls at our government minister. We are told the UK is a world leader in the way it is tackling carbon emmissions. I, along with the thousands of others who have objected to this coal mine development wait in anticipation of the right answer. Coal mining is our heritage not our future.
Thank you for so much to everyone who has contributed to the CrowdJustice page to fight the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years. We have succeeded so far – now we need to put a full stop to the plan!!
An article published this week in The Ecologist exposes yet another layer to the myriad of reasons why this coal mine must be stopped.
An extract from the article states :
Nuclear Safety campaigners feel that it is of great concern that the Conservative government made no attempt to be transparent about appointing the CEO of West Cumbria Mining to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in the very same month that they gave the green light to the same CEO’s Coal Mine project. This is at the very least a direct conflict of interest.