Update 16th March 2021: Coal Mine to go to public enquiry

The Government has finally stepped in to review the decision to open a new coal mine in Cumbria. On Friday, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Robert Jenrick informed Cumbria County Council that he will ‘call in’ the proposed planning application for the mine – the approval of which would have significantly increased greenhouse gas emissions.

This is exactly what we’ve been campaigning for, and is a huge step towards the coal mine being scrapped for good. A Public Inquiry will now be held by an independent Planning Inspector to assess the evidence around climate change, something which has been hard for Cumbria County Council to do objectively due to pressure from local politicians and interest groups.

Public pressure has paid off once again. In his letter to the Council, Robert Jenrick stated that he was intervening, in part, because of controversy surrounding the mine. Together with other local and national organisations, we spoke up and our collective voice could not be ignored.

Read the government's letter about calling in the coal mine decision here

Update 10th February 2021

Friends of the Lake District welcomes Cumbria County Council’s decision to rethink the Whitehaven coal mine

Commenting on Cumbria County Council’s decision to reconsider their earlier decision to approve the Whitehaven coal mine, Douglas Chalmers said:

“The increase in carbon emissions from this mine alone would amount to more emissions than the Climate Change Committee has projected for all open UK coal mines up to 2050. A new mine jeopardises the UK’s goals of phasing out coal by 2035, and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050, as well as undermining the UK’s COP26 Climate Change Conference Presidency and international credibility. We do not need the mine, 85% of the coal to be produced is for export.

“The County Council has the chance to show real leadership in the fight against climate change by recognising Cumbria’s potential to be at the heart of a Green Industrial Revolution. Mining jobs have a fixed timespan. Instead, there is the potential to create jobs that will be sustainable into the future by maximising Cumbria’s significant renewable energy resources and innovating sustainable alternatives to traditional manufacturing processes. Then we could all look forward to the future Cumbria deserves rather than regretting a missed opportunity.”

FAQs about the proposed Coal Mine

  • Q:  The mine is for coking coal to make steel not for power stations generation, so it's OK isn't it?
    A:
      We understand that the coal is for coking plants. It still has a huge carbon cost. The total emissions from the mine (420 million tonnes of CO2) will exceed the whole of the UK’s carbon emissions in 2018.  You can read more about this here https://www.green-alliance.org.uk/resources/The_case_against_new_coal_mines_in_the_UK.pdf 

  • Q:  No one has invented a substitute for steel and it has to be made somewhere.  The alternative to the Cumbrian mine is imported coking coal or exporting the steel making jobs.
    A:  
    The steel industry is fast moving away from using coking coal. By the time the coal mine is up and running, Europe’s steel industry (where the 85% of the coal not used in the UK is supposed to go) will be quickly moving away from use of coking coal and towards hydrogen. Steel making using coking coal is old, dirty technology and the steel industry is quickly innovating to ensure they bring their carbon emissions down https://greenallianceblog.org.uk/2021/02/09/why-europe-doesnt-need-cumbrias-coking-coal/ 

  • Q:  Imported coal will only ADD to carbon emissions as transport will have to be taken into consideration.
    A:  If there were savings from reduced transportation of coal, these would not cancel out or neutralise the emissions from the mine operations. In the context of the UK’s target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and global efforts to keep carbon emissions in line with a scenario compatible with no more than a 1.5*C increase, absolute reductions of emissions are required, rather than balancing off one set of emissions against another.

  • Q:  Without this source of coal the future of British steel is threatened.  However burning coking coal won't go away to salve our conscience, it will just move to China where environmental protection is less enforced than in Britain, won't it?
    A:  
    British Steel will only be using 15% maximum of the extracted coal. Using the import/export emissions argument, the 85% of coal exported from the UK will also cause emissions. British Steel is also moving towards lower carbon models of manufacturing, so it’s unlikely that not opening Woodhouse Mine will cause British Steel to collapse.

  • Q:  West Cumbria is a deprived area, with high unemployment and low wage jobs. This mine would help reverse that.
    A:  
    The Local Government Association estimates that there will be nearly 900 jobs created in West Cumbria thanks to the development of green and low carbon technologies such as offshore wind and low carbon energy generation.  We need to take a step for the future now rather than putting it off again and leaving the mess for future generations to deal with. Coal used to be one of our backbone industries, when we had fewer alternatives. The world is different now, we know more about how these industries damage the environment, so we need to look for better, cleaner ways of making things. 
    Local Government Association statistics on green jobs in their report “Local green jobs - accelerating a sustainable economic recovery”: https://lginform.local.gov.uk/reports/view/lga-research/estimated-total-number-of-direct-jobs-in-low-carbon-and-renewable-energy-sector

  • Q:  The mine would be in Whitehaven, not the Lake District.  So why are you objecting?
    A:  
    Friends of the Lake District covers the whole of Cumbria, and exists to protect the landscape of Cumbria and the Lake District, for the future, for everyone.

  • Q:  You're a landscape charity, why are you objecting to this?
    A:  
    As a charity that campaigns to look after Cumbria and the Lake District, we are very aware of the impact that climate change is having on our landscape and environment.  The emissions that this mine will cause will originate from our backyard so to speak.  We need to be calling out the danger of climate change to future generations, we need to give them the chance to appreciate the environment of Cumbria and the Lake District. Any process that will increase world carbon emissions this much needs to be opposed. It’s time to force progress on new industrial processes rather than looking back at the old damaging ways of doing things.

Update 4th February 2021

Friends of the Lake District signs letter to the Prime Minister protesting the new Cumbria coal mine decision

We have joined with 79 other concerned groups and written to the Prime Minister questioning why Robert Jenrick decided not to put the proposed Whitehaven Mine in west Cumbria through a Planning Inquiry process.

Read more: Friends of the Lake District signs letter to the Prime Minister protesting the new Cumbria coal mine decision

Read the full letter to the Prime Minister about the Cumbria Coal Mine here.

11th January 2021

We were very disappointed to hear on Friday that the Government has decided not to call in Cumbria County Council's decision to allow a new coal mine to be built near Whitehaven. We agree with Friends of the Earth and the World Wide Fund for Nature and others that this is the wrong decision in the face of climate emergency.

Read more: Jenrick criticised over decision not to block new Cumbria coal mine

16th October 2020

We, along with several other organisations including the World Wide Fund for Nature, have written to the Secretary of State requesting that he ‘call in’, or reconsider, Cumbria County Council's decision to approve a new coal mine near Whitehaven.

An Article 31 holding direction has now been placed on this application, to allow the Secretary of State time to consider whether call in is warranted. This means that Cumbria County Council cannot issue a decision notice until the Secretary of State has decided whether he will call in the application.

Our concerns about this proposal relate primarily to climate change, which will affect many aspects of our lives and the environment both within and outside protected landscapes.  

We recognise that many support the scheme on the basis that it will provide jobs for the area. While this is of course important, we share the view of many others that in the context of climate emergency (as has been declared by the County Council), the economy should be supported in ways that will also help us to avoid or mitigate the issues of climate change, and not in ways that will further exacerbate them or that will make it more difficult to address them.

Read more on the BBC website: Whitehaven coal mine approved for third time