- Irish Sea – the scene of the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years? (Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on Pexels.com)
The consultation period ends on January 28th, Cumbria County Council will still accept letters after this time but the sooner you write the better.
Send your email now to Cumbria County Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please also ask if you can speak at the meeting on the 22nd February – the more folk who write, speak and make a noise against this plan the better chance we have of stopping it.
Please remember to include the planning application reference number PL\1689\05 (4/17/9007) and your postcode in the subject.
The main points to make are
- This coal mine proposal flies in the face of Cumbria County Council’s Carbon Reduction Plan and Climate Local programme.
- The mine workings would extend to within 8km of Sellafield, this would increase the risk of earth tremors and worse.
- Collapse of the sea bed as a consequence of mining under the Irish Sea would resuspend radioactive particles from decades of Sellafield reprocessing.
Here below is an excellent letter from Sam who is a member of Radiation Free Lakeland. Feel free to use this as inspiration to write your own letter of objection. It doesn’t need to be long – just a sentence or a paragraph or two.
To Rachel Brophy, Development Control, Cumbria County Council
Jan 8th 2019
WOODHOUSE COLLIERY, APPLICATION 4/17/9007
In response to the current consultation I wish to make the following comments regarding the revised Environmental Statement from West Cumbria Mining [WCM]. This letter is additional to my submission of Feb 6th 2018.
I am writing to raise serious concerns concerning climate change, subsidence, earth tremors and the potential to trigger a major nuclear emergency at Sellafield.
I wish to OBJECT to the application.
I wish to raise four major grounds on which this application must be firmly rejected.
- The 2008 Climate Change Act
The revised Environmental Statement fails completely to address the UK Government’s commitments to carbon reduction within the 2008 Climate Change Act and the increasingly stringent restrictions regarding the extraction and burning of fossil fuels.
WCM state that at full annual production the mine will extract: 2.43 million tonnes of metallurgical coal; 350,000 tonnes of lower grade ‘middlings’ coal; and 150,000 tonnes of rock overburden (reject). (annually!)
WCM continue to refer to ‘metallurgical’ coal as if this is in no way related to the coal used in energy generation. The simple facts of physics are that all coal produces CO2 when burned for whatever purpose.
WCM seem to be completely unaware of the global urgency of reducing carbon emissions. The proposal to open a new coal mine in our current precarious climate change situation is completely counter to Government policy.
- Subsidence, earth tremors and nuclear accident/emergency.
I have written to The Office for Nuclear Regulation [ONR] regarding the application. In response to my letter they state –
‘ONR ask to be consulted on developments within the off-site emergency planning area around the Sellafield site, which extends approximately 6.1 – 7.4 km from the site centrepoint (see http://www.onr.org.uk/depz.htm for further details). We would not expect Cumbria County Council to consult us regarding developments outside this zone, and I can confirm that we have not been consulted.’
This ONR map shows the offsite emergency planning zone around Sellafield. This shows the area where planning consultation with ONR is required.
The ONR state that Woodhouse Colliery would be approx. 10 km from Sellafield. WCM state the mine would reach within 8km of Sellafield. Which is correct? Surely it is essential to know exactly what the distance may be.
Even more crucially – this is not a mere surface development – the WCM application concerns undersea mining in an area known to be heavily faulted.
The nature of underground earth tremors and minor quakes is that they travel in unpredictable ways through the rock. Earth tremors have no regard for the 7.4 km exclusion zone drawn on the map.
The geology that WCM plans to mine is completely connected to the geology underneath Sellafield. That the mine would be outside the formal ONR planning zone by up to 4km is completely irrelevant given the unpredictable nature of earth movements.
Any earth tremor caused by mining or subsidence would have catastrophic effects in terms of a nuclear emergency bringing massive danger to life over a vast area.
- Potential collapse of the mine.
The ONR state – ‘The nature of the proposed mine (pillar and room) is one that is not designed to collapse at any point in the future, unlike for example long wall mining. Even in the highly unlikely event of a collapse, the nature of any ensuing earth tremors would be limited to very low levels. These levels would not be felt by persons on the Sellafield site and would not disrupt structures, systems and components important to safety on the site. ‘
This is a very worrying response. Firstly ONR states that they believe that the mine is not designed to collapse – then they state that if it did so it would not affect nuclear safety.
‘Pillar and Room’ mines can and do collapse.
“Crandall Canyon Accident Investigation
Summary and Conclusions On August 6, 2007, six miners were killed in a catastrophic coal outburst when roof-supporting pillars failed and violently ejected coal over a half-mile area. Ten days later, two mine employees and an MSHA inspector perished in a coal outburst during rescue efforts.
In the event of a mine collapse at Woodhouse the potential for injury and death would reach well beyond the mine shaft itself. Radioactive accidents at Sellafield could affect much of the UK and neighbouring nations.
There is a major inconsistency here as the ONR believe the mining process to be ‘pillar and room’ while the WCM website states –
‘Run-out and Pocket extraction will be the chosen mining method as this is a proven, highly versatile coal mining method that takes advantage of advancements in mining technology to mitigate risks associated with the Cumbrian Coal fields.’
How can this application possibly be agreed given that WCM and the ONR are clearly not operating on the same basis regarding the basic mining method and associated risks?
It is telling that WCM themselves are acknowledging the very real risks of the Cumbrian coal fields and are seeking to ‘mitigate’ them.
This is a glaring inconsistency and indicative of the wrong footed nature of this entire application.
What Nuclear Emergency Plans are in place by the County Council should tremors damage the containment vessels at Sellafield?
- Formal assessments of likely subsidence damage have proved to be very wrong
There are big lessons to be learned from the fracking industry at home and abroad.
Groningen in the Netherlands is Europe’s biggest gas field. The Netherlands Government has recently decided to close it down leaving billions of euros of gas in the ground. So far 80,000 homes have been damaged, families are living in sheds and schools are closed.
In the UK the Governments Oil and Gas Authority [OGA] has allowed fracking in Lancashire to proceed with the ‘traffic light’ system of monitoring tremors. Since fracking recommenced in autumn 2018 there have been over 30 Lancashire quakes recorded by the British Geological Society. Many of these quakes causing shut down of production. The UK OGA has said – ‘it is rare for damages, even cosmetic ones, to occur at magnitudes of less than 4.’
The truly frightening aspect of this is that ALL of the Groningen quakes measured less than 4. The Netherlands Government had insisted that they were harmless, yet the damage stands at 8 billion euros so far and the closure of the industry.
Groningen had few geological faults or earth tremors before the extraction began. West Cumbria has a history of both faults and of tremors.
The nature of subsidence and earth tremors is by nature unpredictable.
What is certain is that this constitutes a very real potential.
The damage caused in the Netherlands by allegedly ‘safe’ levels of tremor would result in radioactive mayhem were such tremors to occur in West Cumbria where we have Europe’s largest collection of deadly nuclear waste.
This potential risk of a nuclear accident/emergency is simply too great a risk.
There is no way that Cumbria County Council can possibly assure the public safety of this proposed mine and the application must be firmly rejected.
Member of Radiation Free Lakeland