Mine Water Pollution in Whitehaven Harbour is Red Flag for New Coal Mine.
Campaigners have sent a letter (10.2.23) to the Coal Authority via Cumbrian MP Tim Farron urging the Coal Authority not to renew West Cumbria Mining’s conditional licence for onshore mining which expired in October 2022.
Radiation Free Lakeland have opposed the coal mine since 2017 on a wide range of pollution issues including “geological and hydrological damage to an already vulnerable area in close proximity to the UKs nuclear waste stockpile at Sellafield”.
Approval of Coal Mine – Whitehaven Harbour Turns Red
Secretary of State, Michael Gove approved West Cumbria Mining’s coal mine plan on 7th December, around the same time red mine water poured into Queens Dock, Whitehaven Harbour. The authorities have not yet found the cause and mine water continues to flow into the harbour and on into the Irish Sea and Solway Firth.
The letter from Radiation Free Lakeland’s Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign states:
“We understand that the Coal Authority are currently working with the Environment Agency and United Utilities to try to understand where the contaminated mine water pouring into the culvert in Queens Dock, Whitehaven is coming from.”
Honeycomb of Old Mines -West Cumbria Coast
Campaigners point out that: “The contaminated water could be coming from any one or more than one of the vulnerable honeycomb of old mines in the Whitehaven area. Even if WCM’s exploratory testing is found not to be to blame for disturbance of the hydrology and geology it is surely prudent not to allow further mining in the area above Whitehaven which is very likely to impact the fragile geology of an already heavily mined coastal area.”
The Planning Inspector Stephen Normington, a former coal miner himself admitted that induced earthquakes resulting from West Cumbria Mining’s activity “cannot be ruled out.”
Campaigners warn that “The contaminated water pouring into the harbour is said by the Environment Agency to contain “metals” and our own citizen science test of the surface water’s ph at the far side of Queens Dock nearest the sea and furthest from the culvert, while the gates were open to the sea indicated that it is nowhere near the ph 8.1 that the surface harbour seawater should be. The test indicated a ph of 6 or below. This is veering towards acidic. The pressures on the Marine Conservation Zones of the Irish Sea and Solway Firth are becoming intolerable, including damaging investigation techniques for a high level sub-sea nuclear dump for which the coal mine boss is, incredibly, a key advisor with the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management.”
Do Not Issue New Licence
Campaigners urge the Coal Authority not to issue a new conditional licence for West Cumbria Mining’s controversial and potentially already polluting Onshore Whitehaven South Prospect.
[F14APower of the Authority with respect to coal mine water discharge
(1)The Authority may take such action as it considers appropriate (if any) for the purpose of preventing, or mitigating the effect of, the discharge of water from a coal mine into or on to any land or into any controlled waters.
(2)In this section and sections 4B [F2 , 4C and 4CA] below—
(a)“controlled waters” has the meaning given by section 104 of the Water Resources Act 1991; and
(b)references to coal mines are to coal mines vested in the Authority.]
The following blog post is by What Lies Beneath Rattlechain Lagoon from 2017 and is reposted here with their kind permission. The article is a deep dive into the Marchon site and the Anhydrite Mine that West Cumbria Mining wanted to dewater in order to use as the route into the proposed coal mine under the Irish Sea. The Environment Agency objected to that plan of dewatering the Anhydrite mine into the Irish Sea as the mine water is extremely toxic. So WCM said they would go above the Anhydrite Mine drift tunnels instead of through to get around their dewatering problem. However WCM HAVE carried out extensive borehole explorations to test the hydrology and geology and who knows what impacts that has had on the honeycomb of mines below Whitehaven – including the acid producing Anhydrite mine. Although it is kept under wraps one of the biggest users of acids is the nuclear industry. The tanker of nitric acid that overturned last year on country roads was heading to Sellafield but not one mainstream media outlet shared that fact with the public.
Albright and Wilson’s stench extended beyond Oldbury in the West Midlands to up North in the coastal area of Whitehaven. The chemical firm Marchon Products Limited had been based in the town for many years producing raw materials for detergents, and then expanding onto a disused tar plant before “the Quakers” took over there in 1955 and made it a subsidiary producing the detergent raw material STTP- Sodium Tripolyphosphate. Solway Chemicals Limited, another subsidiary were also producing sulphuric acid from this year from a plant next to the Marchon site. Their main concerns were liquid fertilisers and sodium laurel sulphate- a toothpaste foaming agent.
STTP needed phosphoric acid as an essential agent, produced by “the wet process”. This method is outlined from a 1955 Albright and Wilson publication “The manufacture and uses of phosphorus.”
A £5 million sulphuric acid plant extension completed in 1967 made Albright and Wilson the producer of one tenth of the UK’s total sulphuric acid output. 1968 saw the start up of a new wet phosphoric acid plant at Marchon, replacing the two previous ones. Levels of chemcials produced at the site are reported to have been 350,000 tons per annum of Sulphuric acid, 350,000 tons of cement, 165,000 tons phosphoric acid and 170,000 of STTP.
Whitehaven harbour was utilised to deliver raw materials using specially built vessels, which finally ceased in 1992.
But around the late 1960’s with AW’s disastrous loss making Long Harbour venture, the rot appeared to begin to set in for Marchon works as a site. In particular the environmental issues associated with other Albright and Wilson sites began to show a familiar pattern.
Pollution from this large site appeared like a sore pimple from an outpouring of froth associated with the phosphate manufacture into the Irish Sea. More dangerous were heavy metal laden effluent from the phosphate rock impurities. For many years it had been a source of constant complaint from residents yet Albright and Wilson batted these away as it always did with talk of “jobs being put at risk” and claims it met allowed consents- all the same bullshit they also used when complaints were made about their Oldbury activities.
In 1990 they successfully took Albright and Wilson to court, winning a private prosecution brought under the new Water Act 1989. Whitehaven magistrates fined them a poultry £2000 and greenpeace costs awarded of £20,000.
But Albright and Wilson were always a company in total denial about their disgusting environmental record and the following whinging, whining trite garbage is what they published in Albright World at the time, desperately attempting to convince their workforce that Greenpeace were in the wrong and that these environmental assassins were trying to close the plant down when they attempted to block the discharge pipe into the
The comments made by works director in this article are utterly delusional, “We believe the sample taken was not representative of our normal discharge” he wailed, with “profound knowledge” ,appearing to blindly believe that any transgression of the law should not apply to them. We also get those invented no/low risk “calculations” of theirs, which we have also recently seen offered by Rhodia in their defence of a white phosphorus/phosphine factory fire which were not accepted by the Health and Safety Executive.
We have a similar airbrushed version of events offered by Hugh Podger in his “Albright and Wilson The Last 50 years” and “Marchon The Whitehaven Chemical works by Alan Routledge.” The latter book is fine if you enjoy black and white photos of machinery and people standing in front of them viewed through rose tinted glasses, but the garish reality of long standing environmental pollution is not part of the colour scheme.
When Greenpeace later blocked the pipe discharging the grime into the sea, they were totally justified in doing so, and if I had been around then knowing what I do now about this firms activities, then I would have joined them to happily be arrested for taking a stand.
When challenged on their environmental record, Albright and Wilson and then Rhodia, basically the very same people, consistently were in denial about their activities being harmful and their blind arrogance as “scientists” believed they knew better than anyone else.
“Marchon is licensed by the North West Water Authority to pour 93 tonnes of uranium into the Irish Sea every year, as well as 27 tonnes of cadmium and 9.3 tonnes of arsenic. Tests carried out by Greenpeace show that the composition of radioactivity found in Whitehaven harbour precludes it being from Sellafield. For five years now, scientists have claimed that cadmium has been a cause of genetic damage. Large doses can destroy cell manufacture and repair.”
“In April over 100 parents and schoolchildren suffered nausea and coughing when a cloud of sulphur dioxide acid leaked from the factory and descended on them as they were leaving nearby Kells infant school. In July, 200 cars in the factory carpark were pitted and stripped of paint after a second acid leak.”
All of this appears to be of a very similar story to the anecdotes of residents living around the Langley area, and also the denials of an operator who appeared to care little about the health concerns associated with the toxic chemicals which it produced. That it “provides jobs for the area” that would otherwise not be there appears to be the standard political shillers comment for justifying appalling and blind eye turning health and safety faux pas.
Of the manner in which it treated its workforce:
“Only relatively recently, local people have become determined to know more about the effects the plant is having on their health. But employees are frightened to speak out for fear of losing their jobs in an area of high unemployment.
One former employee said he found that childhood asthma returned when he began working in the factory’s acid plant. He says the company never admitted that his work was the cause of his disease, but equally it did not insist he return to his job. The man, who still wishes to remain anonymous despite having left, interpreted this as a sign that the company knew it would be difficult to deny his work was the cause. But there are constant denials by the company when the plant is blamed for ill health.”
What one can also take from this is the not uncommon observation concerning how Albright and Wilson treated its community with contempt from a resident who states in the article
“The medical profession has not been remarkably active in trying to identify the source of high asthma, foetal mortality, and genetic abnormality rates which have been found in and around the town. During the past five years rare syndromes have been found in babies born in Whitehaven and nearby Mirehouse. These diseases have led to either mental disorders, cleft palates, cysts, or facial abnormalities. There are also abnormal levels of severe spasticity, premature births, the transposition of body vessels, poor speech, and acute myloid leukaemia…..
….Sheila Smith, who runs the family advice centre in nearby Monkwray, said: ‘It’s the accountability which in some ways concerns me more than the pollution. The thing we have found quite amazing is that Albright and Wilson is a totally closed organisation.
‘Trying to get the company involved in the community is impossible. You just meet with closed doors. As a result, there’s an awful feeling of apathy and despair. The health authority also turns a blind eye, even though this part of the town has the highest death rate from heart disease among women in the northern region, and is among the worst for general health.’
One can perhaps see why after the Greenpeace incident and concerns like this, Albright and Wilson attempted a charm PR offensive with “open days“, which of course, were more like an advertisement for what they made than a factory tour of any real benefit to the put upon polluted.
As at their Oldbury headquarters in the West Midlands, it is apparent that Albright and Wilson at Whitehaven were well represented in political circles. The May/June 1986 edition of Albright World reported that the new mayor of Copeland- the borough in which the works sat, was an employee, and not only that but boasted that he was the fourth employee mayor of that pocket borough to hold the title!
There may well have been others that followed him, but how can anyone really believe that having top councillors onside- especially in matters relating to planning and environmental concerns was not likely to be a very beneficial arrangement for all concerned- with protecting the company polluter?
And then there is the former MP – John Cunningham- now “Baron Cunningham of Felling”. Between 1970-1983 he was MP for the Whitehaven constituency, which then became the Copeland constituency where he would serve another 22 years as the elected representative. He deserves a special mention in how a political friend “who never worked for the company” was actually working for it for many years.
The following article appeared in Albright World, where the then fledgling Labourite was joined on a factory tour of the works by the useless former Prime Minister Jim Callaghan who held talks with union officials and managers- Orwell’s “man to pig and pig to man” comes to mind here .
“He told them that Dr Cunningham, who was his Parliamentary Private Secretary during Mr Callaghan’s government, was “constantly preaching about A+W’s virtues and is a very good advertisement for you”
With this type of ear to the top man, one wonders what the good doctor was actually diagnosing him with about the wretched company, but it is plain to see in the subsequent years that he persisted in this “advertisement” shillery for AW.
“Bottom’s up” champagne socialist
In 1980, he would go on to become a paid “industrial policy adviser” for Albright and Wilson, a title he held throughout his time as shadow environment secretary until he became Minister for Agriculture, fisheries and food under the odious Blair administration. So back to pouring “advertisements” into the ear of the premier. Of course this would be short lived, as Albright and Wilson by now were in terminal decline, so his advice cannot have been of much use in the 80’s
With takeover assured, Rhodia did not waste much time in flogging off the Whitehaven site to “Huntsman”- another metamorphosising pillock of a chemical manufacturer. In June 2005, time was called on the entire site, as it shut down for good, with Rhodia diverting its operations abroad.
There are some interesting footnotes to the fallen polluting behemoth of Whitehaven available on the internet.
An excellent urban exploration of the way in which Albright and Wilson/Rhodia and its associates left the site before demolition, almost as though it was Chenobyl can be found HERE. Another on the excellent 28 days later website gives a ghostly tour of the abandoned factory.
from 28 days later- a discarded map of the AW Whitehaven site
It is clear that this post apocalyptic scenario is one very familiar with Albright and Wilson and the manner in which it operated as a company- especially at its demise into the French hands of Rhodia.
Uncharacterised chemicals of all types and colours appear to be scattered everywhere mixing freely with mould alongside office equipment and personal identification tags serving as wafers in the toxic cream. How little the company must have valued the personal data protection of its staff to leave the site such as this!
Clearly the Environment agency will be monitoring this area for many years to come this, one of the many Albright’s bastards.
From the perspective of an ex worker at the site there is a rather whimsical ditty concerning the demise of the works at Whitehaven which can be found below, but it is somewhat unusual for the usually brainwashed ex workers of an Albright and Wilson company to be somewhat critical of both the employer and the union facilitating the destruction of the operation. It is quite clear that longstanding Marchon workers resent Albright and Wilson and Rhodia’s control of operations, as it began to unravel. Ultimately, with the type of chemicals that it made and which will no doubt persist for several decades, what one “couldn’t believe what they’d done” is how they managed to get away with it for so long.
And so to the inevitable talk of “regeneration” from toxic crap. We have this document entitled “West Whitehaven Draft Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) February 2012″, which can be read at the link below.
So when politicians are no longer able to spin their PR about jobs being vital from polluting industry, thus they like to play lego land and still pretend that the toxic legacy does not appear by wanting to build “quality homes” on or near to contaminated land. We do however get the truth of the past in this document about this dirty polluting shambles of a chemical site too late from this self serving council, now that its chemical factory paymasters are no longer there in situ.
“The public perception of the area locally is often poor due to the recent history of the industrial / chemical activities of the Marchon plant. The environmental impacts of the production processes resulted in unpleasant odours, gas clouds, and residue deposits on cars and gardens, as well as ground water contamination leading to foam licks and radioactive deposits in the sea. Visual impacts, noise and lighting pollution affected local residential amenity as did the heavy road traffic generated by the many tanker trips taking raw materials to the site from the harbour.”
Now when did Jack Cunningham and co ever admit to any of this at the time?
There is a parliamentary by-election in the Copeland constituency looming with the departure of Cunningham’s successor as MP there Jamie Reed who is taking up the position of “head of development and community relations” at the Sellafield Nuclear plant in the area. One could strongly argue that this former PR man for the company never left the job during his time as an MP. Perhaps voters should look very closely at the cv’s of the candidates for any grimy links with longstanding pollution.
Alexey Mordashov – the main shareholder and chairman of Severstal, a Russian conglomerate with interests in metal, energy and mining companies visited Whitehaven in 2017. The rumour on the harbour at Whitehaven where the boat caused quite a stir was that the Russian businessman was visiting West Cumbria Mining.
Now the yacht has been seized by Italy: “A spokesperson for Italian PM Mario Draghi announced the move on Friday night, disclosing the value of the yacht while stating it was taken near the coastal town of Imperia in the country’s northwestern extremity.
“Italy’s police [have] just seized ‘Lady M Yacht,’ a 65 million euros ($70 million) vessel belonging to Alexey Alexandrovits Mordaschov located in Imperia (Liguria) – in compliance with the recent EU sanctions,” the spokesperson, Ferdinando Giugliano, wrote in a tweet.
Footage purporting to show the police operation in action has been published by local media, showing an illuminated ‘Lady M’ surrounded by officers and law enforcement vessels”.
The following letter is reproduced here with kind permission of the author. Please, if you are drinking bottled water in Whitehaven and surrounding area, do write urgently before May 6th to the Planning Inquiry opposing the coal mine. The water in West Cumbria is already intolerably stressed without a coal mine abstracting 148 cubic metres every single hour from ground water through the Byerstead Fault. This is unacceptable even if West Cumbria’s drinking water situation was not already stressed.
Sent by Email: InquiryDocuments4@planninginspectorate.gov.uk
Applicant’s name: West Cumbria Mining Ltd
Call-in reference: APP/H0900/V/21/3271069
“To whom it may concern,
I have been reading about the new proposed coal mine in West Cumbria and I need to put in my penny worth.
I have been fighting for four years now to have the boreholes, the water of which is mixed with the residents’ tap water, turned off.
The reason for this is that when the boreholes went to a 50/50 mix, hundreds, upon hundreds of animals died within the space of 48 hours! The animals ranged from fish, to cats and dogs, chickens sheep and cattle. The residents were vomiting; had diarrhoea and nasty sore skin, as well as mouth ulcers, headaches and other symptoms.
United have constantly said that there is nothing wrong with the water, however over 6,500 people have given me a completely different story.
On investigating I found, by talking to local witnesses, that for approximately 40 years, the old mines had been used as dumping grounds for everything from cars to hazardous waste!
No one at the time dreamt that the water in the aquifers would ever be used for drinking purposes.
Getting rid of hazardous waste is an expensive matter, so companies took the decision to dump it in the mines for free.
Cumbria County Council have no records of this, they claim, but why would they, if this dumping was done, mostly on the quiet.
Even now with the mix of borehole water and Ennerdale at a 20/80 . very few people can stomach the tap water and have turned to either zero filters or bottled water. The skin rashes are awful. I have had complaints from over 6,500 residents who are sick to death of the water. If they leave the area for a few days, all their symptoms vanish!
10’s of thousands of bottled water are bought every week in Copeland. When people have a shower, the hospital has advised that one rinses with warmed bottled water and apply cream.
So, my point is, that WCM want to use ground water to wash the coal. Really??? Given that there are God knows what chemicals in said water, let alone what other muck has spread from Sellafield in the past 70 years. Much of what was kept very secret during the war – for obvious reasons.
All this coal mine is going to cause is further climate changing muck.
The 500 jobs it says it will create for the locals is hogwash, as they will have to be bringing in experts from outside the area as no one here has a clue as to the new machinery.
Is that why a whole street has been bought up in St Bees I am told?
Work, to use electricity in the steel Industry has been leaping forward at a pace. This mine will probably not be needed after 2030 and then what?
Mark Jennings NRDC
AS A FOOT NOTE:
The Ecologist Article from March 2017 measuring contamination in the Esk Estuary, compares to Fukishima!
“What do all these numbers mean to the non-scientist? Well, the Geiger counter dose rate of 3 uSv/h tells us that the area contamination is about 900 kBq/m2 in that tidal area of the River Esk. The particle analysis tells us that the radioactivity is mainly in Plutonium and Americium hot particles with some Caesium-137.
This hot particle scenario is the same as in the inner Chernobyl contamination zones. The dose rate is about equal to the level of contamination in the 30km zone of the Fukushima reactors shortly after the disaster.”
“The United Nations developed a contamination classification scheme after Chernobyl. Its definition of contaminated land was 37-185 kBq/m2. The Chernobyl Zone of Permanent Control was set at 185-555 kBq/m2 . So we can say that the estuary is ‘radioactively contaminated land‘ and should be a ‘zone of permanent control’ under the United Nations definition.“
“But there are no United Nations warning notices at the beaches and estuaries near Sellafield.”
AN EXAMPLE OF SKIN CONDITIONS If you want more examples, please ask – I have hundreds!”
One of our eagle eyed team has just reported that the Coal Authority have just confirmed that two applications for variation ( time extension beyond the normal eight years) have been received by them from West Cumbria Mining. A decision is pending.
The more people who write to ask that the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy do not issue Coal Authority Licences the better. Please write to:
email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter – @beisgovuk
Please Ask that West Cumbria Mining Ltd License Applications CA11/UND/0184/N and CA11/UND/0177/N are not awarded extensions. These conditional licenses were given 8 years ago, over and above the heads of the public and local councillors with no semblence of democracy. Before the Coal Authority issue any licence for West Cumbria Mining to extract coal onshore and offshore in the first deep mine in the UK in 30 years there should be a full public inquiry.
If central government want to take local government into account, or even to decide, as Robert Jenrick said in his “it is a local decision,” washing of hands, then they need to announce a full public consultation. The original licences that the developers are now asking for an extension of were issued above the heads of both the public and local councillors.
As you may know, Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole is a Radiation Free Lakeland campaign and the clue is in the title . We have been saying since 2017 that a mine that would be just five miles from the worlds riskiest nuclear waste site and directly beneath the decades of radioactive wastes discharged from Sellafield and currently lodged in the Cumbrian Mud Patch is unjustifiable on health and safety grounds. Also scientists have noted that the “expected subsidence” caused by mining in this area would resuspend radioactive wastes into the water column and back to land”.
We argue that climate is not the only burning issue surrounding this mine which is also adjacent to one of the areas in the frame for Geological Disposal of Nuclear Wastes. In what looks like conflict of interest the Department of Business and Energy Industrial Strategy appointed the CEO of West Cumbria Mining to the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management in November 2019
All these issues are within the BEIS remit.
We argue that there should be a full public consultation before the issuing of licences to mine out an area the equivalent of Wastwater lake under the Irish Sea. The coal would be shunted for decades under the Marine Conservation Zone creating a massive void under the radioactively contaminated Cumbrian Mud Patch.
It is noteworthy that the area West Cumbria Mining have asked for a license extension for is Offshore Area No2. There is a big mismatch between the Coal Authority’s resource map and WCM’s Offshore Area No2 – an area which happens to be directly adjacent to the area being mooted as a possible Geological Disposal Facility for high level nuclear wastes. Just saying!
“I plan a marathon today. Just to dispel any suggestion that I am a fine weather protest jogger, today the rain is falling sideways. My Jog begins at the top of Linethwaite and the cycle track close to the main A595. I head towards Whitehaven on the track that runs across the head of Pow Beck Valley.
This green valley would be the location of the Train Loading Facility. The view from the cycle track is shrouded in mist today. St Bees Priory is just visible on the misty horizon a few kilometres away. The Coal Yard would go on the left under Stanley Hill and be connected to the coal mine via a 3KM tunnel. Wainwright’s Coast to Coast would pass beneath the railway and sidings. What would the coast2coaster think when they descend from Bell House Farm to be greeted with railway sidings full of coal wagons? I continue, downhill slightly, to Whitehaven. I have a good tailwind, my pace is that of Michael Johnson. I breeze into Mirehouse and on to Corkickle. My first restbite is close, I want to add a little bit of adornment to one of Whitehaven’s permanently fixed residents near Morrisons. He should have that mask covering his nose though.
I cut through the Georgian streets to the Market Place and add a little more adornment to one of the sailors standing there too.
Around the harbour for Wellington Pit and to look ar the End of an Era coal mine monument. When the artist created the work it was indeed the end of coal mining in Whitehaven. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the artist depicts one of the miners in a respirator, the coal mines of Whitehaven: and particularly Haig Pit, were prevalent to firedamp.
I had visited the Haig Pit Museum on a few occasions and came away amazed at the courage of coal miners working in such dangerous conditions, descending that mine shaft and trundling in the coal wagon 4 miles to the coal face. If I was given the choice I would not be sending miners underground and risking their lives for coal. Earlier this year 5 miners suffered burns to their airways and upper body in a gas explosion at a metallurgic coal mine in Queensland. Modern technology failed those miners that day. My run has been mostly downhill up to this point but that is about to change. I run up the steps and ramp leading to the Candlestick Chimney; still venting gases from an old coal mine, and follow the railway brake to the top of the hill and Kells. past West Cumbria Mine HQ.
The stiff south westerly that aided my arrival into Whitehaven is now blowing straight at me and my run is a snails pace as I battle up to Seacliffe and the coal mine site near Sandwith. I reach the top, no view to enjoy the lakeland fells just a blanket of grey. I am going to follow in the footsteps of Wainwright’s Coast 2 Coast at Sandwith to take me back to Pow Beck and Linethwaite. I wonder how much money his coast to coast has generated for our Whitehaven economy? A tourist asset that should be protected but now has the possibility of an ugly coal yard cutting across its path.
The footsteps of Wainwright today are wet and muddy as I plod to Demesne Farm. I cross the St Bees Road heading for Bell House Farm and begin to drop down into Pow Beck.
The underground coal conveyor would brush past that bungalow in the background and into the new coal loading building at the bottom of the hill. Its a straight line from the planned coal mine through an ancient wood and down to this green space near Linethwaite. My descent is tricky, the grass slippy but I manage to stay upright.
I stand to visualise what this place would be like if the mine gets the go ahead. They are to extend the cattle arch for the Coast to Coast path. The railway line is two metres above me.
Where I am stood would need 1000s of tonnes of rubble and hardcore stretching for 1km down the valley to enlarge the embankment wide enough for two railway sidings. Most of the field pictured above would disappear under the hardcore base they intend to dump here. The loading facility would be housed in a timber clad structure to ‘fit in’ with the area, but I can’t see how a large building and dozens of coal wagons in sidings fits into this pretty place.
The run is nearly done, as I continue under the bridge in Wainwrights footsteps across the fields back to Linethwaite. The going is slow, the field swamped; as it often does in wet weather. I splish splosh to a track that leads back to my starting point, a welcomed piece of gravel and tarmac and just one small hill to ascend and I have completed my circuit. 15KM I am well chuffed with myself, I don’t think I have run as far in my life. Carry on like that and I shall be as strong as those miners back in their day. Mining is our heritage not the future.
There were powerful testimonies from members of the public and experts. I was barred from speaking and from delivering the petition (the petition was included in the speeches by Sam Moisha who spoke powerfully on nuclear risks). Due to a tech hitch I was an hour late getting my submission in (having registered to speak months ago) – the council used their ‘discretion’ to disallow my voice on behalf of Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole (despite others handing in submissions even later and being allowed to speak).
There were confident testimonies from those in favour including the Mayor of Copeland Mike Starkie who said he was proud to support the development and he reiterated the strong support from Conservative MPs and Sellafield. The CEO of the development Mark Kirkbride spoke angrily (he protests too much?) saying that the development has NO LINK TO NUCLEAR WASTE ( he did not explain his role at Radioactive Waste Management) but provided no assurances about the acknowledged subsidence issues of the Cumbrian Mud Patch or proximity to Sellafield and seismicity. There were powerful speeches from members of the public and experts opposing the development. The presentations included climate damage, new steel making processes, proximity to Sellafield and subsidence of the radioactive Cumbrian Mud Patch . Given the excellent presentations you would have expected a vigorous debate from councillors. Not so. The first councillor to speak was Brenda Grey (LibDem) who said scientists were not to be trusted and that if we were ever on a new war footing then steel would be needed. Councillor Grey followed this up by proposing the motion to approve the decision subject to the 101 conditions. There was no reminder from the Chair or Officers that the Secretary of State has applied a holding condition on the development. The holding condition tells the Council that they could refuse the decision but not approve it – only that they could be “minded to approve” subject to the Secretary of States decision. So they could refuse but not approve!
The second speaker was Councillor Anthony Markley who spoke of the need for jobs, industrial development and his pride at being part of this new development’s future. He then seconded the motion to approve the first deep coal mine in 30 years. Councillor Markley had said pretty much the same about the plan for the high level wastes geological nuclear dump under Silloth – and then changed his mind saying he was listening to his constituents regarding health and safety. Concern for the health and safety of his constituents and their future was not in evidence in this instance.
The three councillors who voted against the plan but did not speak powerfully against it – insisting that the issue was “finely balanced” and “difficult” were the Chair Geoff Cook, the Vice Chair Alan McGuckin and Councillor Hilary Carrick. There were two abstentions and one who could not vote (tech problems) which left 12 councillors voting for the plan.
The Press has focussed on climate campaigners and the climate damage rather than the proximity to Sellafield and the resuspension of the Cumbrian Mud Patch. KCCH have sent countless press releases out about the nuclear issues but as a BBC reporter said to me “we are’nt interested in the nuclear side”.
I did manage to include proximity to Sellafield in this interview with RT (how ironic as New Century Media the PR company behind West Cumbria Mining also is the PR company for Rosatom – the Russian state nuclear department)
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. “
Nearly 4000 people, including Chris Packham have signed the petition to Stop the Coal Mine in Cumbria – Please keep sharing and signing. As well as signing the petition – People can STILL WRITE individual letters to Cumbria County Councillors who will be making the decision on this to let them know STOP THE COAL MINE!
A Briefing Paper on radiological implications of West Cumbria Mining’s plan has been sent to councillors ahead of their coming decision on whether to allow the plan for the first deep coal mine in 30 years to continue.
The author of the paper, Tim Deere-Jones is an Independent & non-aligned Marine Pollution Researcher & Consultant whose clients include: WWF, The UK Wildlife Trusts, European Climate Foundation, Greenpeace International, European Coastal Local Authorities and many others.
This comprehensive report concludes that the plan by West Cumbria Mining should be abandoned. The introduction and Major Conclusions are reproduced below…..
Introduction:This Briefing offers a review of the possible seabed morphological changes and marine pollution implications of the sub-sea coal mining venture proposed by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) at their Woodhouse Colliery site near St Bees Head.
WCM have designated and identified a sub-sea mining zone of the Irish Sea lying to the west of St Bees Head and extending at least 8kms offshore and southwards to within about 8km of the Sellafield site.
The WCM extraction proposals, using continuous mining methods, predict the extraction of approximately 3 million tonnes of coal per year over a 50 year period. This extraction rate will eventually generate a huge subterranean void space of approximately 136 million cubic metres (a volume greater than that of Wastwater Lake).
This briefing considers the impact of the creation of such a sub-sea void space on the possibility of sea bed subsidence in the area of the WCM designated sub-sea mining zone, and the subsequent potential for marine radiological pollution as a result of the subsidence induced re-suspension of the heavily radioactively contaminated sea bed sediments of the Cumbrian Mud Patch and surrounding sea bed areas.
It is noted that there is a lack of data about the status of the existing historical galleries and workings of the West Cumbrian Coalfield. It is noted that there is a lack of accurate data about the history and status of any subsidence seismicity in the coalfield.It is noted that the BGS have concluded that the coalfield is heavily faulted and has a long history of subsidence and that it appears that there are no plans to monitor for any subsidence prior to, during the operational phase or in the post operational phase of the Woodhouse Colliery.It is noted that sub-sea monitoring equipment is available and could be deployed in the region in order to monitor for any subsidence effects arising as a result of the proposed Woodhouse Colliery “mass removal” extraction.
It is concluded that there is a real potential for subsidence to occur as a result of the “mass removal” and the creation of extensive sub-sea void spaces, and it is noted that such subsidence could generate earthquake and liquefaction effects which may extend onshore as far as the Sellafield/Moorside sites.
It is concluded that any seabed subsidence in the WCM designated sub-sea mining zone would generate re-suspension of Cumbrian Mud Patch heavily radioactive seabed sediments. It is noted that such an event would generate elevated doses of man-made radioactivity to coastal zone populations and sea users along both the Cumbrian coast and at “downstream” regions further afield.
Given the potential for such a radiological effect and the delivery of increased doses of radioactivity to relevant coastal zone communities, some of which have already been identified by the authorities as Coastal Critical Groups, the Woodhouse Colliery proposal (especially in the absence of any precautionary mandatory subsidence monitoring) is strongly contra-indicated and should be abandoned