Cumbria Coal Mine Awarded Fresh Licence to Drill by the Coal Authority

Offshore area no 2 is the Licence area nearest Sellafield
As can be seen from this Coal Authority image – area number 2 has very little known coal resource (blue hatch) – nevertheless the Coal Authority has just awarded West Cumbria Mining a new licence for this area which adjoins the area under consideration for a Geological Disposal Facility. Coal boss Mark Kirkbride is an “invaluable” member of the government body (CoRWM) advising on nuclear waste. His role is largely to advise on the highly mechanised digging of holes as deep as Scafell is high. We continue to urge individuals and groups opposing the coal mine to look at the bigger picture rather than focussing narrowly on climate, jobs and coking coal. To ignore the big picture (Nuclear!!) does the planet no favours. The mine can still be stopped – we will keep you posted.

the following has been sent to press…

Over the Easter period, the Coal Authority  quietly awarded the controversial Cumbrian Coal Mine new “conditional” licences.  The developer West Cumbria Mining’s original conditional licences granted in 2013 were valid for 8 years.  W.C.M  applied for a variation to their original conditional licences in January 2021.  The new applications were approved on April 13th 2022.

Nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland who run the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign have lobbied tirelessly for details of the new licence applications to be released to public view.  Despite extensive correspondence between the group and the Coal Authority including an intervention by MP Tim Farron and an internal review,  all details of the licences were refused public scrutiny claiming ‘commercial sensitivity.’  Campaigners say that what can be seen is that one of the new licences awarded includes Offshore Area 2, an area of the Irish Sea Marine Conservation Zone off St Bees.  The nuclear safety group say that “according to the British Geological Survey most of this area offshore of St Bees and extending towards Sellafield has no known coal reserves”  They go on to say that “the awarding of coal licences to the developer ahead of the decision by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove suggests that the Inspector has recommended approval and smacks of the most blatant cronyism”. 

The group point out the close relationships between the former Coal Authority Director Stephen Dingle who appointed  Sir Nigel Thrift to Chair of the Committee of Radioactive Waste Management, and coal boss Mark KIrkbride, described by Sir Nigel Thrift as an “invaluable”  colleague on the Committee tasked with advising government on what to do with the UK’s growing nuclear waste problem.  

Marianne Birkby founder of Radiation Free Lakeland said: “there is only one thing worse than opening a new coal mine and that is opening a new coal mine near Sellafield whose boss is advising the government on the digging of big holes for heat generating nuclear wastes”

Licence to Drill Awarded to Cumbria Coal Mine

Map of Offshore Area No 2

Block New Coal Licences for Cumbria

PETITION delivered to the Coal Authority

Coal Mine developers, West Cumbria Mining have asked the *Coal Authority for new licences.   Do Not Rubber Stamp the Developer’s Licence to Drill.

*The Coal Authority report to the Dept of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  Kwasi Kwarteng MP is the Secretary of State


Leading Cumbrian Councillors had already reassessed their previous unanimous support for the first deep coal mine in decades in the UK and voted “No.”  Through this No vote they have voiced their opposition alongside leading academics, scientists,  politicians, the public and many organisations.  

The reasons for saying No to new licences for West Cumbria Mining are not just “compelling” as Secretary of State Kwasi Kwarteng MP has stated, they are overwhelming.  

There is zero need for a public inquiry at the expense of the public purse. The mine could be stopped tomorrow.  All it would take is for the Coal Authority to block the developers new applications for a Licence to Drill.  It is shocking that details of the new licence applications are being kept secret and from public scrutiny despite Freedom of Information requests from nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland.


A block on the developer’s new applications for a Licence to Drill would not only save the public purse the huge expense of a public inquiry it would also send a strong message to the UK and our international neighbours that the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, who are responsible for the Coal Authority, are committed to both climate and nuclear safety.  

While the significant climate impacts of this coal mine would be EXACTLY the same if this development had been proposed anywhere else in the UK, this coal mine is NOT JUST ANYWHERE in the UK.  The mine would be largely subsea off the West Coast of Cumbria, would extend to within five miles of the WORLD”S RISKIEST NUCLEAR WASTE SITE and be directly under a massive nuclear waste dump known as the Sellafield Mud Patch.  


Sellafield has been pumping eight million litres of  “low level” radioactive discharges into the Irish Sea every day. It been doing that for decades and nuclear wastes (military and ‘civil’) still continue to arrive in West Cumbria.  The nuclear waste discharge pipeline out to the Irish Sea is in constant use.  The coal mine developers say there would be “EXPECTED SUBSIDENCE” of the Irish Sea bed.   Recent reports have indicated this would most likely result in the resuspension of decades worth of Sellafield’s radioactive wastes now largely (but not completely) immobilised in the Irish Sea bed.  Radioactive wastes including plutonium would be resuspended back into the water column, to ours and to neighbouring shores.  The one thing not to do with a radioactive waste dump is disturb it.


The mine itself would be adjacent to the area being promoted as a “possible” Geological Disposal Facility for heat generating nuclear wastes under the Irish Sea.  The CEO of the coal mine Mark Kirkbride has been appointed to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management to advise government on “Delivery” of a Geological Disposal Facility (GDF).  The proposed coal mine  would make a void of 136 million square metres. Would this handy hole be used to dump mountains of rock spoil excavated for a GDF from neighboring rocks?   What destabilising impact would this have on the neighbouring rocks?   Is there a massive unresolvable conflict of interest at the heart of the forthcoming coal mine public inquiry?  The final decision about the climate and nuclear dump-wrecking mine will rest with the government – the same government who have appointed the coal mine boss to position of top government nuclear dump advisor (for highly active wastes).  


These questions (and more) should, but are not likely to be within the remit of a forthcoming public inquiry focussing on planning rather than key issues of governance and nuclear safety.  


The public have already paid out £millions for this coal mine, to be precise,  £2.5 Million in Heritage Lottery Funds for the Haig Colliery Museum which was then handed over to the developers for £1.  

This is a coal mine that the public would keep paying for in more than money and climate impacts – the many headed hydra of both a slow burn and immediate nuclear catastrophe are overwhelming.  

There is no credible case for this mine either on the basis of finance (no market), climate (flies in face of COP26) or arguably the most serious concern, nuclear safety (under decades of nuclear waste, undermining the geology near the world’s riskiest nuclear waste site Sellafield).




BEIS Ministerial Responsibility for the Coal Authority, BEIS also responsible for the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management where coal boss Mark Kirkbride is a key member.

“Ministerial responsibility 11. The Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is accountable to Parliament for the activities and performance of the Authority and it is proposed that any new Minister with responsibility for the Authority will carry out a visit to the Authority within six months of taking up appointment to learn about the role of the Authority and its functions. Typically, we would expect the chair and chief executive to meet with the minister at least annually. 12. Specific responsibilities include:  approving the Authority’s overall strategic objectives and the policy and performance frameworkwithin which the Authority operates (as set out in this framework document and associated documents  keeping Parliament informed about the Authority’s performance  approving the amount of grant-in-aid/grant/other funds to be paid to the Authority, and securing Parliamentary approval  carrying out responsibilities specified in the Act including appointments to the board, determining the terms and conditions of board members, consenting to the appointment of the, approval of terms and conditions of staff (Including pay) in accordance with the latest pay guidance  laying of the annual report and accounts before Parliament”

Sellafield Radioactive Discharge on the Irish Sea Bed directly beneath the coal mine plan and question of ‘Who is Responsible for Safety of the Discharged Nuclear Wastes?’  is subject to complaint being dealt with by the Information Commissioner

Coal Authority Licences

6th Climate Budget     note the Climate Change Committee is appointed by BEIS

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in West Cumbria

British Geological Society Lack of Testing in Bangladesh

Who is Responsible for Radioactive Waste on the Irish Sea Bed – Call from Nuclear Free Local Authorities NFLA troubled by the UK Communities Minister not ‘calling in’ the decision over a deep underground coal mine in West Cumbria

Haig Colliery and Mining Museum

Return of final meeting in a creditors’ voluntary winding up

West Cumbria Mining’s documents detailing how assets worth £millions bought for £1would be protected from creditors

24 Nov 2020 Registration of charge 071433980002, the document can be found here

The steel industry will soon have little use for Cumbrian coal

It’s All About the Climate, Climate, Climate – What About the Earthquakes, Earthquakes, Earthquakes?

Not to mention the Subsidence and the Radioactive Mud Patch

This is our response to West Cumbria Mining and the Council’s agreement on conditions should the Secretary of State rubberstamp WCM’s coal mine. 

We vehemently disagree with  the conditions on seismicity and subsidence as agreed by WCM, the Rule 6 parties and Cumbria County Council.  We ask for evidence of justification from WCM for the generous conditions on subsidence and seismicity.  The very small concession to monitor all seismicity is meaningless when the limits set at which actions would be taken are generous and the outcome is not to halt operations but for WCM to merely deliver a report. 

We are devastated to have been sent the report by (WCM) planning advisors, IC Planning, that: “The Rule 6 parties, Friends of the earth and SLACC, have both confirmed that they have no issue with the subsidence and seismic activity condition as they are currently drafted. Both parties have provided extensive commentary on a wide range of other conditions and aspects of the proposals, but have not chosen to do so in relation to these specific conditions.”  (Note: SLACC have contacted me saying they “do not agree” with the conditions on seismicity and subsidence – lets hope that disagreement from SLACC is voiced in the final conditions).

We agree with the former UK climate envoy John Ashton who has said:  “It is morally incoherent” to focus on climate without looking at subsidence of the contaminated Irish Sea bed and induced seismic impacts on the Sellafield site.   It will be interesting to see how this all plays out given that the coal boss Mark Kirkbride is employed by Government to advise on nuclear waste plans, his expertise is, after all, in digging very big holes .


66. Seismic Activity – Monitoring 

WCM Response 

“WCM can approach these parties and request access to monitor using their electricity and wifi but cannot guarantee permission will be granted.”

RFL Response: WCM must be responsible for providing power and wifi for equipment used in seismic monitoring at high vibration- sensitive and high hazard consequence onshore receptors in the region such as i) West Cumberland Hospital ii) South Egremont boreholes utilised for public drinking water and Sellafield.  The receptors should not be responsible for providing electricity and monitoring for WCM. 

WCM Response on distances to identified receptors

Note. Egremont = approx. 5 miles, Sellafield = approx. 9 miles. 

RFL Response

Unless seismic activity is taking the very long route by road, the shortest distance from the nearest point of the coal mine’s subsea area identified by WCM’s location maps is South Egremont under 4 miles and Sellafield, five miles.  Unless WCM can prove otherwise their disingenous claims on distance between the nearest point of the subsea coal mine and the highly vulnerable receptors, should be struck out of official records.

Images – Distances from WCM’s mining interests to receptors, taken from the “as the crow flies” distance calculator and WCM’s location map with RaFL additions.

67 Seismic Activity – Investigation 

WCM Response

“1mm/s threshold is unreasonable and impractical, – suggest retaining 6mm/s as per original condition.”

RFL Response

What evidence is there that the 1mm/s peak particle velocity threshold agreed by the Planning Inspector during RFL’s contribution to conditions is unreasonable and impractical?

WCM’s 6mm/s PPV is the threshold used for blasting and 1mm/s is the point at which residents will complain of vibrations.   

WCM Response

“This is not a fracking project”

RFL Response

If this was a fracking project a stringent Traffic Light System would by legal requirement be put in place – as Cuadrilla have said:  “It should be noted that the Traffic Light System required for hydraulic fracturing in the UK is significantly more stringent than the maximum ‘allowed’ induced seismic event for other hydrocarbon industries in the UK such as coal mining where magnitude >3.0ML events have been observed”.  Cuadrilla Environmental Statement Appendix 1. Induced Seismicity May 2014 Preston New Road. 

WCM Response

“Unreasonable to stop if cause not known. Outside body not defined.”

RFL Response

If the cause is not known operations should be halted until the cause is known.  The “Outside body” refers to the appropriate regulatory authority.  

68 Seismic Activity – Mitigation 

WCM Response

“Suggest the WCM TLS = 

  • C66 – continuous monitoring (Green)
  • C67 – investigation if PPV > 6mm/s
  • C68 – mitigation if investigation
    demonstrates WCM at fault (Red)
    Although a case could be made from the references later to increase the threshold, WCM have not pursued this”

RFL Response – WCM TLS applies only to PPV not to  Magnitude of earthquake

C66 – continous monitoring (GreenP

C67 – investigation if PPV > 1mm/s  (Amber)

CC8  – halt to operations if investigation demonstrates WCM at fault (Red)

Magnitude TLS
Green light  a seismic event up to 0.0 occurs operations continue normally.

Amber light: A seismic event between 0 and 0.5ML occurs during mining within the operational boundary (a specified geographical area). Operations continue with caution unless this coincides with a peak particle velocity of 1mm/s and then operations should halt. 

Red light A seismic event of 0.5ML or greater occurs within the operational boundary or within the near region up to 5 miles. 

69 Subsidence Monitoring

WCM Response

“Prawn fishing in the mud patch and weather conditions are more likely to have an influence.”

RFL Response

What evidence does WCM have that “prawn fishing” and “weather” are more likely to have an influence on resuspending radioactive silts from the Cumbrian Mud Patch than subsidence and climate impacts ?

We have searched for referenced academic research studies of the volume/mass of seabed sediment re-suspension following prawn trawling in, or near, the unique seabed fine sediment feature known as the Cumbrian Mud Patch. We have found no reference to any such studies.

We challenge WCM to provide the referenced academic research data on which they base their claim that sediment re-suspension generated by shrimp trawling and weather factors will generate a greater degree of sediment re-suspension than sub-seabed mining subsidence.

Unless WCM can produce copy of the relevant, fully referenced academic data we urge the Inquiry to regard the WCM  statement/claim as spurious and un-substantiated, to disregard it, and to ensure that it is struck out of any record of official proceedings.

If WCM can produce copy of the relevant, fully referenced academic data,  we request that the material be regarded as late submitted evidence and that we be granted an extension period in which we can review, consider and respond to this late submitted evidence. If such a time extension is not available or not permitted we formally request that the late submitted evidence be withdrawn and that any reference to the WCM claim be struck out of the record of of official proceedings.

We note that the North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority provided an early submission to Cumbria County Council on Subsidence saying:

“impact on shoreline profile and wave heights. NWIFCA note that WCM propose a ‘no mine zone’ within Cumbria Coast MCZ and St Bees SSSI which we welcome. WCM state that “Given the small predicted seabed height changes, the slow rate of subsidence and the small changes in slope, combined with the fact that subsidence will not occur over the whole mined area it is likely that impacts on statutory protected areas in the vicinity of the development (i.e. the Cumbria Coast MCZ and the Solway Firth pSPA) will be negligible”.   

This does not dispel concerns over potential for subsidence of the seafloor outside of these Protected Areas which could have impacts on the benthos plus potential consequences to shoreline profile and wave heights, which could in turn result in unintended consequences that would affect these protected sites and elsewhere.Data and understanding are limited at the present time and in order to address this, WCM will commission surveys and a numerical modelling study to more accurately predict the potential impacts, if any, of subsidence on the intertidal and marine environments, to be completed prior to commencement of works.

“Data will also be gathered regarding subtidal communities to determine the distribution, extent and likely responses of any potential sensitive receivers. In addition, a Marine Monitoring Plan will be implemented to monitor the bathymetry of the seabed and surficial sediments properties (including benthic communities) overlying the extraction zones using the data collected in 2016-17 as a baseline”.

NWIFCA would ask who the regulator for subsidence risk is and stress the need for further dialogue and engagement over this issue once predictions of potential impacts have been produced.

 The NWIFCA have said that they “will respond formally to an MMO consultation”.  

70 Subsidence – Investigation and reporting

WCM response

“Chapter 17 and the HRA did not come to a conclusion that this would occur. CCC have considered this 3 times and have not sought such a condition”

RFL response

It was assumed by the NWIFCA, the County Council and NGOs that the subsea impacts of this coal mine would be scrutinised by a Marine Management Organisation consultation.  The onshore impacts from subsea mining induced seismicity and subsidence ( including radiological impacts and the question of who is liable should the “expected subsidence” result in resuspension of Sellafield’s wastes from the mud patch) would be one of the issues given scrutiny in a public consultation by the MMO.   However, WCM have said that they “may not need” a MMO licence.  What is the evidence for this statement?  Has a pre- licence application been submitted behind closed doors ? 

71 Subsidence – Mitigation 

See above.

North Western Inshore Fisheries and Conservation Authority
Ref No: 4/17/9007 RE: Consultation on Further Information submitted in relation to a Mineral County Matter Application for Planning Permission accompanied by an Environmental Statement 29th January 2018 – full document attachedOffshore Subsidence – resuspension and dispersal of radioactive contaminants. The documentation has confirmed to NWIFCA that a risk of subsidence exists and therefore there remains an overwhelming concern over the potential for disturbance and resuspension of radioactive contaminants and sediments.”

Drinking Water Boreholes at South Egremont

Note: Planning loop hole and WCM -Onshore conditions are the responsibility of Cumbria County Council’s Mineral Planning Authority and marine conditions are the responsibility of the UK Government’s Marine Management Organisation from whom WCM say they “may not need a licence”

The result of this would be that the seismic and subsidence issues having not been addressed by Rule 6 Parties in the Planning Inquiry will also not receive any scrutiny in a public consultation from the Marine Management Organisation.  The Mineral Planning Authority of Cumbria County Council has the responsibility to manage conditions for any onshore effects and harms resulting from Woodhouse Colliery should Michael Gove approve the mine. But if their source of origin is subsea, the local planning regime outsources responsibility to the UK government’s Marine Management Organisation, from whom the developers clearly expect a rubber stamp.  

If a rubber stamp is to be issued by Government (who employ the coal boss as a nuclear waste ‘disposal’ advisor at the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management  it is imperative that a seismic Traffic Light System for the Woodhouse Colliery is implemented. The TLS should be at least as stringent as that for fracking.

In his statement to the Planning Inspector, the independent speaker and writer, formerly UK climate envoy 2006-12 John Ashton CBE included the following points.
:  “it is also dysfunctional that the terrestrial and marine dimensions are being considered separately.
I understand the procedural reasons. But it is the consequences of the project as a whole that will shape the lives of those in the firing line. It is both intellectually and morally incoherent, as well as administratively inefficient, to subdivide those consequences: to consider the climate implications, for example, without looking at the risks arising from the destabilization through subsidence and seismicity of Sellafield waste on the seabed above the mine.”  Although the former UK Climate Envoys’ statement was widely reported the points he made on seismicity and subidence never made it into the headlines.

Evidence Sent to the Public Inquiry – Please Send Your Own in Before May 6th

Dear Friends,

below is our evidence to the public inquiry – please do feel free to use this as inspiration for your own letters to the Planning Inspectorate.

Our evidence is not a full list by any means – for example we havn’t mentioned the re-routing of the Wainwright Coast to Coast or the fact that this area is the last breeding place of in England of the black guillemot.

In conclusion we have said :

Radiation Free Lakeland strongly urge the Planning Inspector to consider issues which he may initially have felt were outside the scope of this Inquiry but which have been central to our concerns from the outset. Issues including nuclear safety and drinking water quality.  Issues which may in the final analysis be of even more overwhelming concern than climate impacts.   Nuclear impacts would be catastrophic for the immediate and long term future and viability of not only Cumbria’s health and safety but the health and safety of our neighbouring countries.  Our final thought is to leave the image of our first thought upon seeing West Cumbria Mining’s vision of the coal mine.  It looks uncannily similar to the view of the Chernobyl sarcophagus and for those living in the shadow of Sellafield looks like the threat of a nuclear sacrifice zone rather than a promise of a “green mine.”   

We urge the Planning Inspector to overturn Cumbria County Council’s approval for this uniquely dangerous coal mine.

Please do write to the Planning Inspectorate, include your name and address and write before May 6th to this address, if you would like to speak at the inquiry please do let the Planning Inspectorate know.

Quote reference ‘APP/H0900/V/21/3271069
By post. (please send 3 copies written in black if possible)
Letters can be sent to:
Ms Elizabeth Humphrey
The Planning Inspectorate
Room 3/J Kite Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol, BS1 6PN

Our full letter is below – please do use for inspiration for your own letters to the Planning Inspectorate

on behalf of Radiation Free Lakeland


(1) GDF plan halted 2013

(2). Keekle Head

(3) Legal Challenge

(4) Leigh Day Judicial Review granted permission,the%20UK%20to%20be%20built.&text=On%2020%20June%202019%2C%20Leigh%20Day%20wrote%20to%20Cumbria%20County%20Council.


(6) Copy attached  of Final Judgement between Marianne Bennett and Cumbria County Council and West Cumbria Mining 18/08/2020

(7) “Despite the applicant declaring on the company website that the raw material has very low ash and moderate sulphur levels, the key coking characteristics reflected in the current set of conditions are already and generously set high, at 8% for ash and 1.25% for sulphur.  The applicant now requests to relax this to 9% and 2% respectively but is not offering a credible reason why this is necessary”.

(8) Anhydrite mine

(9) Potential for Contamination of Egremont boreholes used by UU as potable drinking water source for parts of West Cumbria (Appendix 12-9 Response to EA Comments by ESI Consulting – attached)

(10) “This group is dedicated to improving the water quality in West Cumbria and has been created as a result of the recent introduction of borehole water into our supply which many feel is unsatisfactory to say the least”. .

(11) Groundwater monitoring at Sellafield

“workers repairing the leak were asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, preventing them from discussing the details of the work, however Sellafield has denied this. The spokesman said: “We have been open and transparent about this incident. We have kept our regulators and stakeholders informed throughout and published details on our website on 18 November.” Last month there was another leak in the older part of the site and work is due to take place in the new year. Sellafield said: “The current suspected leak is in an inaccessible part of the building, which is underground.

(12) Byerstead Fault questions asked of the EA and BGS

(13) Troubled Waters

(14) Citizen Science – Radioactive Beaches


(16)  Cronyism

(17)  Coal Authority


(19) enclosed The Pit and the Polar bear – comic book.


Protest banners are continually removed from the fences of the site – contrast this with that other defunct fossil fuel plan in Lancashire. At least the frackers, Cuadrilla allowed protest banners on their fences!

Following a direct question to Labour HQ from environmental journalist Donnachadh McCarthy,  Labour has stated  :

“Labour is very concerned about the environmental and long-term economic ramifications of approving the UK’s first deep coal mine in forty years. 

 “This project will not help us fight the climate emergency, nor will it provide the long-term job security that Cumbrians deserve as the UK rightly moves towards a green economy.

“We believe this project should be called in by the Government on the grounds of compliance with national net zero commitments. 

“But this underlines why the Government needs to support the transition to a green economy, including greening the steel industry, which would create stable, high-skilled jobs in local communities across the country.”

Local nuclear safety group Radiation Free Lakeland are delighted that Labour has come out against the coal mine plan.  Marianne Birkby founder of Radiation Free Lakeland and the person who took on the legal challenge under the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign which has seen the plan being kicked into the long grass repeatedly has said “For Labour to come out against the coal mine is a very big deal given the £millions so far spent on public relations alone for political lobbyists from New Century Media to push this plan in the corridors of power.  We assume that the County Council will have to ratify their “minded to approve” decision taken on October 2nd and we hope that councillors will see that this coal mine not only has no justification but is positively dangerous to the health of this county and beyond on both nuclear and climate grounds. If not, if the Council stick with their ‘yes’ vote  there is, given Labour’s opposition and mounting evidence against the development,  an increasing possibility that the Secretary of State will call the Council’s decision in for a public inquiry.”

Donnachadh McCarthy reporting in the Independent – Labour is Opposing the UK’s First Deep Coal Mine..

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


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

Mining Developer’s Suppliers List Slammed .. —

In the Cumberland Echo today… Mining developers’ suppliers list slammed by protestors Written by John Walsh Wednesday, 09 September 2020 Yucca Mountain – Tunnel Boring Machine. A nuclear safety group has slammed the preferred supplier list of developers hoping to open the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.Radiation Free Lakeland were behind the […]

Mining Developer’s Suppliers List Slammed .. —


Dear Friends,

Big apologies as this will read like blowing my own toy trumpet – but recent uncorrected press reports re the legal challenge have stated that climate groups and their campaign organisers were “involved in the legal challenge” . This is not true. See below….

MANY THANKS to all who have supported the Legal Challenge from myself Marianne Bennett (aka Birkby) against  Cumbria County Council’s decision to approve West Cumbria Mining’s original planning application.


My decision to take on the legal challenge was not made easily.   As a known anti-nuclear campaigner and founder of the small, volunteer anti-nuclear group Radiation Free Lakeland, I  have no climate activist following (despite nuclear being the ultimate block on a healthy future). Our focus at Radiation Free Lakeland is nuclear safety. Namely to stop new nuclear build, the dumping and dispersal of nuclear wastes and the biggie – the proposed Geological Disposal of Nuclear Wastes.  I took the Legal case on with the extraordinary help of top lawyers Leigh Day primarily because at that time no one and no other group in Cumbria or the UK was willing to take such a bold stance against the plan.  The plan to mine for coal so near to the Sellafield nuclear waste plant and directly below the radioactive Cumbrian Mud Patch is outrageous on many levels.  So on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole which is a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign – we took up the challenge – and that challenge has been successful in that we have engaged the interest and energy of climate activists and West Cumbria Mining have been forced back to the drawing board  (they deny their new application is anything to do with the legal challenge- more on that below!). 

Brief Time- Line of the Legal Challenge 

31st May 2017 – West Cumbria Mining applied to Cumbria County Council for planning permision for a new underground coal mine with coking coal intended for use in the steel industry and middlings coal intended as a fuel source for other industrial uses.

March 2019 – Cumbria County Council resolved to grant planning permission.

June 21st 2019 – Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole wrote to Cumbria County Council pointing out that their flawed decision justified a reconsideration.  The Secretary of State had also been asked by Tim Farron MP and KCCH and others to call in the decision for his consideration.

October 31st Cumbria County Council’s Development Control and Regulation Committee reconsidered their resolution and once again resolved unanimously to grant consent.

November 2019 – the Secretary of State resolved not to call in the decision  (In the same month the CEO of West Cumbria Mining was appointed to the government Committee on Radioactive Waste Management – tasked with delivery of a Geological Disposal Facility)

The application by Marianne Bennett V Cumbria County Council  for Judicial Review was filed on 12th December 2019.   The Grounds included failure to consider Green House Gas emissions,  15% extraction and ‘need’ for Middlings coal and failure to have regard to the introduction of the net zero target by 2050 into the Climate Change Act 2008 on 27thJune 2019.

 7th May 2020  – The High Court made an order listing the hearing for the 18th May 2020. Coincidentally, on the same date, West Cumbria Mining submitted the amendments to its planning application to Cumbria County Council.   West Cumbria Mining proposed that they would amend their planning application to exclude Middlings Coal – ie the Middlings Coal would undergo a new process on site to render it into Coking Coal.  In order to do this the overall quality of the coking coal would be reduced to include a much greater ash and sulphur content.  

13th May 2019 – Marianne Bennett withdraws the now null Judicial Review challenge against the original planning application.  

Fast forward to August 2020 and the thorny issue of who pays for the Court Costs.    

Battle Over Costs

West Cumbria Mining (the Interested Party) applied to the High Court for their costs of over £26,000 to be paid for by M Bennett.  The Judge – Mr Justice Dove ruled that “In short, there is in my view no substance to the Interested Party’s application for costs against the Claimant and it is dismissed.”

M Bennett on behalf of KCCH made a counter claim for costs on the basis that the amendments to the developers planning application had been made with a view to overcoming the grounds upon which judicial review was based.   Unfortunately for us the Judge dismissed this claim also.


This means that Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole have achieved, despite all the odds stacked against, us a massive victory in doing what we set out to do – namely to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole and send the Developers back to the drawing board (date of amended planning application may be 2nd October). 

This achievement would not have been possible without the massive generosity of all those who have contributed to the Crowd Fund.  Our lawyers Leigh Day have put in far more time and expertise than the amount we have raised.  By not achieving any Costs through the High Court – All the monies raised will now go towards covering some of Leigh Days costs (the work they have done has been far in excess of the monies raised) and also the court costs.  

This means that we no longer have a fighting fund – but the good news is that others are now ‘on the case.’   

We will continue to oppose the amended planning application and with all our collective opposition  – we will stop this plan in its tracks for good.   


There is more information here on how you can continue to TAKE ACTION against the plan to mine for coal under the Irish Sea spitting distance from the worlds most dangerous nuclear waste site, Sellafield.

“Last Coal Mine” ? But it would last 50 years!

A colleague has just alerted us to this interview with CEO of West Cumbria Mining.

Full interview on New Civil Engineer 

Cumbria coal mine could be ‘the last one’ in the UK

The proposed £165M Woodhouse colliery in Cumbria could be “the last [coal mine] ever [built] in the UK”, according to West Cumbria Mining chief executive Mark Kirkbride.

Plans for the coal mine have been called into question amid fears that the facility could hinder the UK’s goal to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

And Kirkbride believes that the changes to planning regulations means that the Cumbrian facility could be the last coal mine ever constructed in the UK.

“If you asked me to get planning for another one, I would say it would be impossible right now unless something significantly changed,” Kirkbride said at a British Tunnelling Society lecture.

“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.”

However, Kirkbride believes it is unfair for the mine to be accountable for carbon emissions from coal once it leaves the mine.

He added: “The analogy I use is if you build a car factory you look at what the greenhouse impact is of the factory, what you don’t have to do is the life cycle emissions from the cars that you make. That doesn’t apply to the natural resources.

“People think we can determine how much CO2 for the life of the coal we’re producing. The challenge is that populist noise would make it impossible to get it past a planning committee.”

Kirkbride’s comments come amid a government push towards renewables.

This month Boris Johnson announced that the deadline for the phase out of coal from Britain’s energy system would be brought forward a year to 1 October 2024. The last five coal-fired power stations stations – Ratcliffe on Soar, West Burton, Fiddlers Ferry, Kilroot and Drax – are all expected to close.

Meanwhile, domestic coal and certain types of wood are also to be banned from sale from next year in a bid to cut air pollution.

However, the Woodhouse colliery would be excavating coal for use mainly in steel production – a key distinction, according to Kirkbride, who “fully supports” the phase out of coal for electricity.

The proposed development is for a large underground metallurgical, or ‘coking coal’, coal mine.

Coking coal is used exclusively in the manufacture of over 70% of the world’s steel, with more than 1.2bn.t used in global steel production around the world every year.

The coal is ‘baked’ in a coke oven which forces out impurities to produce coke. Modern steel plants include gas treatment and capture to reduce emissions. The steel produced is used in the likes of cars, kettles and trains, as well as in the manufacture of wind turbines and nuclear power stations.

Around 250t of coking coal is required to build an offshore wind turbine, which uses around 325t of steel.

West Cumbria Mining’s website describes these as “key alternatives to historical coal-powered energy generation”.

It adds that coking coal is “very different to thermal coal which is used to create steam to power turbines for creating electricity”.

However a report, published in January by independent thinktank Green Alliance, claims the coal mine is “incompatible” with the UK’s net zero goals.

It concludes that when burnt, the coal extracted from the mine would produce more than 8M.t of carbon dioxide per year – and identifies ways that the amount of coal used in steel production could actually be reduced.

These include using less steel, using recycled steel, improving the efficiency of steel production with conventional blast furnaces, and producing steel with new processes using renewable energy.

The report says opening a new coal mine will hinder this strategy by ensuring the continued availability of cheap coal.

As such, it contests Cumbria County Council’s claim that the mine will be carbon neutral.

Earlier this month environmental campaigners appealed for a judicial review against Cumbria County Council for giving the go ahead to the mine.

Campaign group Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole – run by the group Radiation Free Lakeland – filed the paperwork to launch the judicial review through the solicitors Leigh Day. They are now awaiting the court’s approval for a full hearing.

The mine was granted cross-party backing in March 2019.



Bad News and Good News

Dear Friends,

There is bad news and good news.  Bad news is that apparently the Development Control & Regulation decision cannot be ‘called in’ internally by Cumbria County Council

Good news is that all your fantastic emails and messages to councillors and others has resulted in Tim Farron MP requesting that the Secretary of State calls in this diabolic decision to give a green light to the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.

We shall give an update on how we can best support this request for a call in by Tim Farron MP to the Secretary of State as soon as possible.

In the meantime – for those folk who were not able to get to the meeting, here are a few videos taken on the day (sorry I didn’t get all the speakers including myself!)   Grab a cuppa and watch the terrible drama unfold – and make no mistake this will make your toes curl.  It is significant that the proximity to Sellafield was not even brought up as an issue by the Council officers.  Sickeningly the members of the committee laughed their socks off when I pointed out that a liquefaction event had taken place in Barrow in the 1800’s – the ground at Sellafield is at high risk of liquefaction in the event of seismic activity.  The last thing we need is earthquake inducing deep mining and massive fresh water extraction to wash the coal (to be extracted from a fault near Whitehaven – they kept that freshwater extraction quiet!).


Part 1. Council Officials addressing the  Development Control and Regulation Committee of Cumbria County Council. The full council did not have a chance to debate this.  We heard Lib Dem Cllr and Chair of the meeting Geoff Cook clearly approve of the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades. Incredibly the close proximity (8km) to Sellafield was not discussed at all by councillors or by their officials.



Part 2 . Part 2. Official of Cumbria County Council outlining how adverse effects can be mitigated from the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades (really?)


Part 3. Dr Henry Adams of SLACCtt making a presentation to Cumbria County Council “SLACCtt most strongly objects to West Cumbria Mining’s application because the carbon emissions it would add are so huge that they would have very significant negative consequences that would far outweigh the benefits claimed.”


Part 4.  Dr Laurie Michaelis IPCC Emissions report author and coordinator of Living Witness.  making a breathtaking presentation to Cumbria County Council –

“Speaking to you feels like possibly the single most important thing I’ll do in my life.”

which they totally ignored.


Part 5. Sam of Radiation Free Lakeland/Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole exposes West Cumbria Mining’s false promises over jobs. “It would be truly difficult to find a bigger dead duck proposal than producing fossil fuels for a declining European steel industry. …Cumbria has had it’s fair share of dead and dying industries – old coal and now nuclear – we do not need another dead duck industry . . . Coal is not the future. It could perhaps be said of the WCM proposal that it was a well-intentioned attempt to bring employment to the area. It could equally be said that it was an unrealistic bubble from the start What we need are jobs that do have a future. Please look to the future stability of jobs in Cumbria and JUST SAY NO.”


Part 6.  Dr Stuart Parkinson, Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility   “In summary, approving this application for a coal mine would be a huge step backwards for efforts to tackle climate change – and thus would increase the risks of extreme weather events such as storms and floods. Meanwhile, the economic case for the mine is flawed. Therefore, I strongly urge the planning committee to reject the application. ”   

Part 7. Mayor of Copeland, Mike Starkie tells councillors to Ignore the “sensationalist” claims of the objectors who have nothing to do with West Cumbria and the objectors views should carry no weight whatsoever (?! what a brass neck this Mayor has… many objectors are local to Whitehaven  and WCM is a dodgy company funded by who knows who from who knows where). Councillors agree entirely with the Mayor of Copeland (who makes the ‘Jaws’ Mayor look quite reasonable) and vote unanimously to approve the first deep coal mine in the UK in decades.  The Mayor points out that Sellafield are right behind this plan to mine deep holes in Cumbria.




How To Write to Cumbria County Council and tell them to Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole

white and black moon with black skies and body of water photography during night time
Irish Sea – the scene of the first deep coal mine in the UK in 30 years?   (Photo by GEORGE DESIPRIS on

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

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


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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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 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.’

map WCm.jpg

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.

  1. 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?

  1. 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.


Sam Moisha

Member of Radiation Free Lakeland