First new UK coal mine for 30 years in doubt

Cumbria council to review plans after opposition from climate change campaigners

A coal miner inspects a piece of coal.
(Image credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Plans for the UK to open its first new coal mine in three decades have been thrown into doubt after the local council said it would reconsider its support for the plan.

Cumbria County Council had previously approved a planning application by West Cumbria Mining, but the local authority now says it will reconsider the application “after new information had come to light”, Sky News reports.

A spokesperson for Cumbria County Council said the decision to reopen the planning application followed the publication of a report by the government’s Climate Change Committee in December. “The report... sets out the volume of greenhouse gases the UK aims to emit during 2033-2037. In light of this the council has decided that the planning application should be reconsidered,” the spokesperson said.

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“Government ministers had declined to intervene in the go-ahead for the mine on the basis it was a local decision,” Sky News added.

The proposed £165m mine would produce 2.7m tonnes a year of coking coal for use in industrial applications such as steel-making, as opposed to thermal coal for burning in power stations.

Supporters of the plan said the mine would create up to 500 new jobs in the economically depressed area, with John Kane, a former GMB union leader, saying Cumbria has a “proud history of mining... going back centuries – so it’s natural people in Copeland would want to see it return”.

However, climate scientist James Hansen wrote to Boris Johnson last week, saying that pressing ahead with the mine would show “contemptuous disregard for the future of young people”, The Guardian reports. Ed Gemmell, managing director of Scientists Warning Europe, also said the mine project “would send an appalling signal to the rest of the world in this critical year for the climate”.

Shadow business secretary Ed Miliband has urged the Communities Minister Robert Jenrick to “take back control of the process” and cancel the project.

BBC environment analyst Roger Harrabin suggests that Cumbria council’s decision to revaluate the plan “may prove a relief for the prime minister” amid pressure to halt the project “as he aspires to lead the world away from the fossil fuels that are heating the climate”.

The Week Unwrapped podcast: Forced labour, virtual bailiffs and Cumbrian coal

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