West Cumbria Mining Pay £1 to Acquire £1.6 Million of Heritage Lottery Funded Mine Museum and Lands

While the entertaining distraction of the ‘Climate and Jobs’ Punch and Judy show rages very publicly over the Cumbrian Coal Mine – important burning issues are buried. Nuclear issues such as the fact that the subsidence inducing mine would be under decades of Sellafield’s discharged ‘low level’ wastes. Nuclear issues such as that at least two executives, including the existing CEO of the coal mine, have been appointed by Government to public bodies pushing for deep dumping of high and intermediate level nuclear wastes. The Irish Sea area, adjacent to the coal mine plan, is in the frame. The CEO of the coal mine in his government appointed role will be talking about this diabolic plan on the 15th March with the Science Discovery Group.

The Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are only too delighted for NGOs, Talking Heads and the media to keep the focus sharply on climate and jobs (of which there are no guarantees made that there would be an optimistic 500). Government would rather not publicise the fact that BEIS (through the Coal Authority) gave the developers conditional license to drill “exploratory boreholes” under the Irish Sea eight years ago (over the heads of the public and councillors) . BEIS also appoint the Committee on Climate Change who have unsurprisingly studiously avoided berating BEIS. BEIS also appointed the CEO of West Cumbria Mining, Mark Kirkbride, to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management. Here is BEIS minister Anne-Marie Trevalyan supporting the coal mine whose CEO is in the pay of BEIS.

While much has been enthusiastically made by the mine’s supporters of what a financial boon the development would be, the reality is that the developers have effectively already stolen substantial funds from the public purse.

A Freedom of Information question has just been asked regarding liquidation of the Haig Mining Museum (despite visitor numbers far exceeding expectations the Museum went into liquidation).

Haig Mining Museum – Was £1.6 Million of Heritage Lottery Money returned ?

“To The National Lottery Heritage Fund,

In 2019 you put in a claim for repayment of £1.6 Million in respect of liquidation of the Haig Mining Museum.

Was the £1.6 Million returned ?

If not, what was the explanation ?

(the Museum, Buildings and Land were subsequently bought for just £1 by West Cumbria Mining in what looks like a closed agreement between WCM, the liquidators and Copeland Borough Council ).”

Interestingly according to the Liquidators, West Cumbria Mining were not at all keen to make their £1 purchase of the Haig Museum, Buildings and Land until they were assured that they had planning permission. This prevarication cost the creditors over £12,000. This is what the Liquidators said : “We now consider that the fee estimate we previously provided for the liquidation is insufficient to complete our duties as a result of : The Company’s asset realisations have proved more protracted than was initially anticipated. This is due to the sale to WCM taking significantly longer than anticipated. This has happened as they did not wish to complete the transaction (£1) whilst there was still uncertainty for them as to whether they would achieve the full planning permission required to run their operations. …”

Having paid their £1 for the Haig, Museum and Land the developers West Cumbria Mining immediately proceeded to make sure that their newly acquired assets (of Cumbria’s heritage), in the event of some planned administrative ‘bankruptcy’ or ‘take over’, would not go to creditors but to WCM’s backers EMR Capital, to persons hidden from view in the Cayman Islands. It is pretty clear that WCM’s eye is on the glittering prize – and that glittering prize is not coking coal but Governmental contracts into the most diabolic plan for heat generating nuclear wastes – a plan that would involve eye watering amounts of public money over decades, contracts to drill become contracts to kill, to dump heat generating nuclear wastes under the Irish Sea. They call it Geological Disposal of Nuclear Wastes in the UK. Not one country has done this and the countries that are trying to do it have not returned to areas previously ruled out (as Cumbria has been at least three times) as being too geologically complex and unstable.

Whats not to like? Everything! To focus myopically on climate aspects of this coal mine, as is playing out courtesy of pusillanimous NGOs and the Media right now, is to play right into the hands of a Dorian Gray like nuclear corruption. A corruption that includes protection of the diabolic agenda of the nuclear industry at all, literally ALL costs.

An Open Letter to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng Who is About to Issue Coal Licenses for West Cumbria Mining


An Open Letter to the Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng MP Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. 

Dear Rt Hon Kwasi Kwarteng 

You said yesterday that there is “a slight tension” between the governmnent washing its hands (Pontius Pilate like) of the Cumbria coal mine saying its a ‘local decision’ and the UK government’s committment to net zero carbon and its chairing of the UN Climate Summit in Glasgow in November.

The UK Dept for Business Energy and Industry Strategy argue that the coal mine is “a local decision” but in the awarding of new Coal Authority licenses to the developers (West Cumbria Mining) the buck stops with BEIS.   Accountability of the Coal Authority lies directly with the BEIS.  The first set of licenses is due to run out on 24th January.

As nuclear safety campaigners who have been opposing this mine since 2019 we are very concerned that the climate aspect of this mine may not be the most disastrous to life on planet earth. BEIS is directly responsible for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management who have appointed the CEO of the coal mine development, Mark Kirkbride to their Committee who advise BEIS and Radioactive Waste Management on “site selection” of a potential Geological Disposal Facility for Radioactive Wastes.  The Coal Mine is adjacent to the area under the Irish Sea bed which is ‘in the frame’  for the subsea geological disposal of heat generating nuclear wastes.   

Do BEIS believe that mining out coal adjacent to the area they are promoting as a Geological Disposal Facility will make the rocks more stable? Or that mining directly underneath the decades of Sellafield’s discharged wastes will make them safer?

The coal mine would be directly beneath the nuclear wastes discharged from Sellafield over the last 70 odd years.  They are in the silts known as the “Cumbrian Mud Patch.”  The UK and Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities have along with local nuclear safety campaigners Radiation Free Lakeland, urged Cumbria County Council to reconsider the impact of the expected subsidence of the Irish Sea bed and resuspension of the decades worth of radioactive wastes from Sellafield which are currently embedded in the silts of the Cumbrian Mud Patch. WCM have designated and identified a sub-sea mining zone of the Irish Sea lying to the west of St Bees Head and extending at least 8kms offshore and southwards to within about 8km of the Sellafield site. The WCM extraction proposals, using continuous mining methods, predict the extraction of approximately 3 million tonnes of coal per year over a 50 year period. This extraction rate will eventually generate a huge subterranean void space of approximately 136 million cubic metres (a volume greater than that of Wastwater Lake).  Subsidence “is expected” beneath Sellafield’s discharged nuclear wastes currently (largely imobilised in the silt, remobilising the nuclear wastes into the water column and back to land.

Now we urge BEIS NOT TO ISSUE COAL AUTHORITY LICENSES for this Coal Mine which would be largely under the Irish Sea.

yours sincerely

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (a Radiation Free Lakeland Campaign

A Letter to The Queen on the Anniversary of the Windscale Fire. Coal and Nuclear Do Not Mix.

The following letter has been sent to the Queen along with a covering letter to the Crown Estate.


Your Majesty’s  love of wildlife is legendary and impressively includes reports that Your Majesty refused to let staff meddle with the bats at Balmoral, “despite the extra cleaning work that they generate.”  

Here in Cumbria wildlife from bats in ancient woods to black guillemots on St Bees Head are under threat along with so much more from the plan to open the first deep coal mine in 30 years.  The coal mine would largely be under the Irish Sea.  

Your Majesty’s Crown Estate has a direct role to play in either facilitating or stopping this plan in its tracks.  Your Majesty’s Crown Estate signed an Exploration Agreement with West Cumbria Mining on 21st July 2017.  This agreement ran out on 2nd October 2020.

Also on 2nd October 2020 Cumbria County Council approved West Cumbria Mining’s plan (The Secretary of State is deliberating on whether or not to call the plan in for a public inquiry).

In order to facilitate the plan for the first deep coal mine in 30 years West Cumbria Mining require Your Majesty’s Crown Estate to agree to an Exploitation agreement in order to extract the coal.

Many feel that profligate burning of fossil fuel is the most dangerous technology man has created but as a long time nuclear safety campaigner I would suggest along with the authors of the Doomsday Clock that the burning of uranium is equal to and even trumps fossil fuel.  Uranium wastes/products which include plutonium and polonium, from much of the worlds uranium fuel and all of the UKs uranium fuel is sitting at Sellafield.  

 This week is the anniversary of Britian’s worst nuclear accident, the Windscale Fire of 1957.  The repercussions of which are still being felt.  Your Majesty has visited Sellafield, the world’s known riskiest nuclear waste site.  Windscale was renamed Sellafield.   Sellafield would be just 5 miles from the deep undersea coal mine.  Mass void removal is known to induce seismicity.  As well as this certain seismic risk the mine would be directly below the radioactive sediments which have settled on the Irish Sea bed from decades of Sellafield discharges.  The radioactive sediment which includes plutonium is named as the Cumbrian Mud Patch.  

The radioactive risks from this, the biggest coal mine to be mined near Sellafield ever, are literally out of this world as the high level radioactive wastes sitting at Sellafield could annihilate the planet many times over (as they were originally designed to).  This and the certain risk of resuspension of the Cumbrian Mud Patch wastes means that this coal mine puts the whole planet at direct risk of a nuclear fall out there would be no coming back from. 

Please be on the right side of history.  The required Crown Estate agreement with West Cumbria Mining for Exploitation of coal reserves under the Irish Sea 8km from Sellafield and directly beneath the Cumbrian Mud Patch should not be signed up to, the certain climate and radiological damage would be intolerable.  Tomorrow is too late.

We would be honoured if you would accept this gift of a painting of the beautiful Irish Coastal area which would see the first deep coal mine in 30 years should this plan be agreed to.

yours sincerely

Marianne Birkby

On behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland and our Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign


Read more:

Sellafield wastes reach the Arctic


Crown Estate Exploration Agreement with West Cumbria Mining



No Worries! Nuclear and Coal In Close Proximity – is ALL OK according to Council Planning Officers in their Recommendations


Nuclear and Climate Concerns Brushed Under the Carpet in Officers Recommendation to Approve Cumbrian Coal Plan

Nuclear Safety Campaigners at Radiation Free Lakeland are shocked at the report published yesterday by Angela Jones Executive Director of Economy and Infrastructure to Cumbria County Council.   In advising Councillors who will take the decision on October 2nd whether or not to grant permission, the report concludes that “I am persuaded that the risks are manageable and that the benefits overall clearly outweigh those likely impacts identified”. 

A spokesperson from Radiation Free Lakeland said:  “we are horrified that Officers have completely brushed aside our detailed report from marine expert Tim Deere Jones on the potential for radiological impacts. They have used a comment from South Lakes Action on Climate Change that : ‘the above issues would raise even greater concern should Underground Coal Gasification be proposed which has potential for large scale subsidence that is harder to control.”

The nuclear safety campaigners say “The report by Tim Deere Jones is specific to this planning application and specific to its unique position. The report details the intolerable consequences of massive new voids caused by coal mining in this specific area which includes the dangers of induced siesmicity near Sellafield as well as likely subsidence of the Cumbrian Mud Patch. To brush this serious nuclear issue under the carpet in this way by using the SLACC comment is utterly contemptous of what is arguably the most serious aspect of this coal mine.

Radiation Free Lakeland note also that the Officers report does not in any way attempt to address West Cumbria Mining’s repeated contempt for climate concerns “WCM does not consider that there is a requirement to assess the emissions caused by the end use of coal which is extracted from the Development”. 

Nuclear Safety Campaigners will be reading the full report in detail and will comment further but in the meantime urge people to lobby their own councillors to urge the Development Control and Regulation Committee members to defy the dangerous Officers report and vote NO on 2nd October. They can also be contacted direct here.

There is also an ongoing Petition  https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/no-new-coal-mine-in-cumbria


Radiation Free Lakeland have been running a campaign to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole since 2017. This has included the legal challenge by Leigh Day which has seen the plan repeatedly kicked into the long grass.

Tim Deere Jones Report into Implications of Potential Seabed Subsidence, Seismicity and Fault Reactivation beneath the Cumbrian Mud Patch

SLACC comment regarding Underground Coal Gasification being “harder to control” than coal mining in response to Tim Deere Jones report can be found on page 75 of CCC Public Reports Pack https://planning.cumbria.gov.uk/Planning/Display/4/17/9007

A Morning Jog

We have permission to publish the following photo journal of a morning jog. The route is through the Whitehaven area past the proposed coal mine.

“It was a lovely morning for my run. The sun rises on another day. Two thirds of Copeland Borough are in the national park, a World Heritage Site. How disappointing that the remaining third has a coal mine; and a nuclear storage facility.

Our local MP Trudy Harrisons tells us that the mining company has a sound business plan. I think the Trojan Horse scenario is a strong possibility. A GDF is a little way off, plenty of time for a private company to invest in a coal mine and create a big cavern inshore. Coal mining and nuclear disposal advisory group in cahoots it seems.

My run takes me past the new housing estates opposite the mine site. I work with  a couple of people here, they are not too bothered about the mine, both said that we need jobs. This is quite true, we need jobs but we are not unique, lots of areas are crying out for jobs. There are more people employed than unemployed in Whitehaven. If they build this mine I fear those new build houses won’t be such an investment, who wants to live next to a coal mine.

I cut across the old Marchon Chemical works to pick up the coastal path to take me to Whitehaven Harbour. Haig Pit is the HQ for West Cumbria Mining. Thay have taken over the mining museum, fascinating I have visited on three occasions before it closed a few years ago. You came away in awe of those miners. Did you know the pithead lift operator had to count the revolution on a clockwork wheel to control the descent of the lift cage. Mess it up and the cage and miners would be crushed as it hit the bottom. Every so often they had to recalibrate the wheel to compensate for the stretch in the steel cable. If it opens again pay a visit. Coal mining is our heritage not the future.

Down hill now towards our harbour and the candlestick vent chimney. The new coal mine vent, to be situated near Sandwith won’t be as elaborate. Perhaps just like the candlestick they will let it vent mine gases (methane).

The only thing I agree with in WCM’s new proposal is their acknowledgement that methane is the most potent greenhouse gas. They are quite happy to vent this into the atmosphere though and at a later date put some methane capture in place to use as an energy source; more pollution but still only less than 1% of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales & Northern Ireland; population 67,886,000) carbon budget.

Round the harbour, the water is looking really clean now that they have introduced a floating rubbish collector. Past the mermaid, she is my favourite and I stop a moment to watch a couple of coast to coast cyclists dip their bike wheels. Their route will take them across the head of the Pow Beck Valley, location of the train loading facility. It is peaceful and green now, an uninterrupted view down the valley with St,Bees Priory standing proud, It’s a lovely view from the cycle track.

The coast to coast proper drops into Pow Beck They are to build an underpass for walkers. I can’t see the appeal of seeing dozens of coal wagons in this green valley, Not all the coal mine is to be built on an old industrial site. So this is how Cumbria protects its tourist assets, lets dig coal, Shameful.

The run takes a turn for the worse, back to my starting point at Seacliffe. It’s all uphill now, those steps are so steep they could be ladders. “