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Help stop plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria!

Almost 7 years ago, the UK reached a significant milestone in the fight to save our planet. On the 18th December 2015, miners at Kellingley Colliery in North Yorkshire worked their final shifts and closed the doors of the last remaining operational deep coal mine in the UK. Now however plans to build a new coal mine just south of Whitehaven threaten our future and risk undermining the progress we have made. 

Coalmine in Spain

WCM first announced plans for the mine back in 2016 and were given planning permission from Cumbria County Council in October 2020. Despite being reluctant to get involved at first, the government eventually decided to ‘call in’ the proposal for a public inquiry following concerns around climate change and the UK’s climate diplomacy. This began in September 2021 and a final decision is expected from inquiry inspector Michael Gove in the coming weeks. 

The coal from the proposed mine, of which 2.78 million tonnes is to be extracted each year until 2049, is supposedly to be used mainly for the production of steel in the UK and mainland Europe, removing the need to import from the US. Looking at the facts however, this simply doesn’t make sense. 

Just 13% of the coal from Whitehaven is to be sold to the UK’s biggest steel manufacturers, British Steel and Tata Steel. British Steel however have already said that the high sulphur content of this coal may render it useless to them. The other 87% then would be sold to markets across mainland Europe and wider, meaning the UK is not only counteracting our own positive climate action, but also counteracting climate action around the world. 

Furthermore, claims from WCM that producing coal in the UK would remove the emissions associated with shipping coal from the US are negligible in light of the knowledge that the emissions from shipping the coal are equal to only 1.8% of the emissions from burning the coal. 

Even more ridiculously, it’s not even clear if there will be a market to sell the coal. According to the international energy agency, the mines currently operating already have enough coal to support steel production until 2050, a year after the proposed closing date of the Whitehaven coal mine. The Climate Change Committee also provides evidence that there will be no need for coal in steel production as early as 2035, with many steel producers looking to move away from coal and instead favouring the considerably greener production method of using hydrogen instead. 

In attempts to justify the plans, WCM claim that the mine will create 504 jobs, of which they say 80% will go to local residents. Yet again, deeper analysis shows this simply won’t be the case. Of the 504 jobs on offer, 81% will require relevant mining experience and expertise, yet with the last operational coal mine in Cumbria closing in 1986, this kind of experience is few and far between. 

Young people are more likely to be left behind and excluded from these job opportunities. According to Cumbria Action for Sustainability however, investment in green jobs in the area could create 9000 green jobs in the next 15 years. This would provide long-term, sustainable jobs for the whole community, and not just a quick fix for a select few. 

By allowing plans for the Whitehaven Coal mine to go ahead, the UK will be creating a product for a market that is rapidly disappearing. In the race towards a sustainable steel industry, this would place the UK two steps behind the starting line. 

It is vitally important that the UK government sets an example to other countries and rejects plans for the Whitehaven Coal Mine following the conclusion of the public inquiry in the coming weeks. 

There are a few ways you can play your part-

  1. Email Michael Gove and Boris Johnson directly
  2. Draft letter to send to your Member of Parliament (MP) asking them to raise your concerns directly with Michael Gove. You can find contact details for your MP by popping your postcode in the Write to Them website.
  3. Gather outside your MP’s office, ideally on Friday 11 March, at 12 pm, or whenever you can that day or during the week commencing 7 March. Hand in your letter to your representative and hold a photo action (printed posters are available for making placards, or why not make your own prop). 

If you can’t make it to your MPs office, why not take a photo of yourself or your group holding signs saying, “No New Coal Mine in Cumbria”. You can post your photos online using the hashtag #NoNewCoal 

Find more information and resources here.

If you live in Greater Manchester and would like placards and / or support on contacting your MP, please get in touch! 

Email office@manchesterfoe.org.uk

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