Update 4th October 2021

The Inquiry into the West Cumbria Coal Mine closed in the early hours of Saturday 2nd October ending a session of participants closing statements lasting over 10 hours. The Inspector thanked everyone for their input and he too was thanked for the firm but fair approach he had taken over the four weeks. Closing the Inquiry, the Inspector confirmed he expected to be in a position to issue his report by early January 2022. His report will then be considered by the Secretary of State, who will make the final decision.


Update 28th September 2021

Friends of the Earth Coal Mine Meeting

Friends of the Earth has organised a free online meeting on Thursday 30 September where it will be providing a recap of what’s happened in its campaign so far, and outline what will be coming up. Bookings for this meeting can be made online now at: 

www.eventbrite.com/e/find-out-about-the-campaign-against-the-whitehaven-coal-mine-tickets-169086737985

Meeting title: 'A session for people that are concerned about the impact of the Whitehaven Coal Mine, but haven’t been involved in the campaign thus far'.

This event has been created for people who are concerned about the impact of the Whitehaven Coal Mine but haven’t been involved in the campaign thus far. You’ll hear from a Friends of the Earth campaigner about the significance of this coal mine and what activities are coming up in the campaign. The event will finish with a discussion about what action you can take.


Update 6th September 2021

  • Watch the coal mine inquiry via Youtube this week

    The coal mine inquiry is taking place from 7 September 2021 and is scheduled to last for 4 weeks.
    Listen to it live here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQqDetL1R5aRgbNm8PDViNw
  • Complete a short survey to share your views

    Friends of the Earth is currently running a survey to elicit the views of people in west Cumbria. it is particularly interesting in knowing more about the views of Cumbrian residents on Whitehaven's future, and West Cumbria Mining’s proposal to establish a new deep coal mine in Whitehaven.
    Please do visit the link to complete the survey: https://friendsoftheearth.typeform.com/to/POH7tkAf
  • South Lakes Action on Climate Change Publishes its Expert Proofs of Evidence

    On 31 August, South Lakeland Action on Climate Change (SLACC) published formal challenges to of some of the key points raised in favour of the proposed mine. 

    The documents are quite long and technical, so we've summarised the main points below or you can read the full “Rebuttals” written by SLACC’s expert witnesses at the link: https://slacc.org.uk/the-truth-about-the-coal-mine/

    We would encourage anybody with an interest in this proposal to get involved. Please do complete Friends of the Earth's survey to let them know your views and do drop in via YouTube to see the inquiry in progress.
  • Summary of SLACC 'Rebuttals'

  • The quality of the coking coal (evidence from Professor Stuart Haszeldine)
    • The coal has a much higher sulphur content than is acceptable for use in EU and UK steelworks.  This means that around 87% of the coal will be exported outside of the UK and EU which tears up the “reducing the need to ship coal” argument.  Any of the coal that is used within the UK and EU will likely need to be mixed with Australian low sulphur coal before it reaches acceptable sulphur levels, meaning that we will be importing coking coal from Australia rather than the US. Again tearing up the shipping agument relating to the climate impact of shipping coal in from abroad. 
  • Development of EU steelmaking without needing to use coking coal (evidence from Professor Lars J Nillson)
    • The applicant’s proof of evidence appears to clearly assume that EU and UK legislated climate targets will not be met – this is clearly unacceptable
    • The applicant’s evidence rests on a forecast which assumes the steel sector in the UK and Europe will not follow a two-degree warming pathway which is incompatible with legislated EU and UK emissions
    • The applicant discounts much of the work going on in Europe to develop non-coking coal methods of creating steel and therefore grossly overestimates the amount of coking coal that will be necessary after 2030
    • Steel production in the EU has been declining since 2007, but the applicant’s proof of evidence posits an annual growth of 0.5% in EU steelmaking. This is a highly unlikely figure
    • Carbon Capture and Storage is expensive and not very efficient. It adds about 30% cost to steel production using coal. As this is the case, EU steel-making is more likely to look to invest in modern lower carbon technology such as hydrogen based production. 
  • The “perfect substitution” argument (evidence from Professor Paul Ekins)
    • the  perfect  substitution  argument  is contrary to the way in which modern markets operate: the Woodhouse mine will not  “displace US mines with higher emissions” and therefore lead to a reduction in global GHG emissions. The US mines will simply sell their product elsewhere if the WCM mine opens, such that the total global level of GHG emissions will be increased, not reduced, by the opening of the mine.
    • If,  as  a  result  of  this  mine  being  granted  permissions,  the  UK  is  required  to  import low-sulphur  coal  from  Australia  to  blend  with  their  new  domestic  product,  then  Mr  Truman’s  case  appears  to  be  that  the  UK  is  effectively  switching  from  the  import  of  US  coal  to  the  import  of  Australian  coal.  (The  analysis  for  Europe  is  the  same).  Even  if  there  was  already  some  existing  import  of  Australian  coal,  the  lower  quality (as against US HVA coal) of the WCM coal would presumably require a higher amount of Australian coal. At best for WCM, this means there is no justification at all for making any claim that there will be net transport GHG savings.
  • Inhibiting the transfer to low-carbon steel technology (evidence from Professor Paul Ekins)
    • Steel makers are already looking to make the transition to lower-carbon methods of production in order to ensure that their business will remain viable within legislated climate targets, because they are aware that prices on carbon emissions are very likely to  rise  significantly  over  the  coming  decades,  and  because  they  see  an  emerging  market for “green steel” and the opportunity to establish market share globally selling it.
    • The  availability  of  cheap  coking  coal,  given  the  broadly  comparable capital investments being considered might well influence steel makers away from the H-DRI technologies that are currently being demonstrated in the EU.
  • The jobs argument (evidence from Rebekah Diski, Senior Researcher at the New Economics Foundation)
    • Mr Kirkbride asserts  that  the  project  will  create  “up  to”  532  permanent  staff  positions.  However  the  applicant  provided no clear methodology for how these employment numbers were ascertained and there is no independent verification of these figures, merely an assertion in the WCM documentation.
    • Any apprenticeships offered are in the context of a development necessarily limited to 2049 for a technology rendered redundant because of climate change legislation. It is therefore difficult to see how such apprenticeships offer any meaningful long-term benefit to local young people, leaving them stranded in terms of future employment prospects.  It’s the equivalent of offering apprenticeships in asbestos-based building techniques.
    • Rather than committing to offering a high level of local jobs, this target is not actually set, but is something to “aim at” on the basis of what is commercially convenient. There will be no penalties if WCM fails to reach this target.
    • Local skills shortages mean  that  WCM  would  need  to  employ  a  significant  number  of  non-local  staff  and  likely  look  beyond  the  UK  for  appropriately  skilled  mine  workers. Only 3% of  the  respondents  to  WCM’s  local  labour  survey  would  be  realistically  capable  of  working at the mine.
    • One of the key obstacles to meeting Cumbria’s  climate  targets  is  appropriate  investment  in  green  skills (e.g. heat pump installers, insulation retrofitters, builders with low carbon construction skills etc).  Clearly,  the  development of skills in the local area in respect of a project with a lifetime shorter than the average career (if the mine is operational 2024-49) which could otherwise be focussed  on  alternative  low-carbon  jobs  will  only  intensify  the  local  green  skills shortage and also leave those employed by the mine without relevant skills for a net zero carbon economy.

Update 29th April 2021:

Whitehaven Coal Mine, final chance to have your say.

The application for a coal mine at Whitehaven will be decided at a Public Inquiry in September this year. There is a final opportunity for members of the public to send in a representation to the Planning Inspector by May 6th next week.  You can also ask to speak at the Inquiry. Read on for details of our concerns about the project and for how to send your comments to the inspector.

You can send your comments to the Planning Inspector or register to speak even if you didn’t respond to the original planning application.

Friends of the Lake District has written to the Planning Inspector reiterating our objections to the plans for the coal mine near Whitehaven. Our concerns about the mine can be summarised as follows:

  • It is not in the public interest as it prioritises a small number of investors and employees above the international climate crisis and environmental damage;
  • It contradicts local, national and international climate change commitments;
  • It increases the risk that local, national and international greenhouse gas emissions targets will not be met;
  • It will exacerbate local, national and international climate change impacts (including impacts upon the Lake District National Park and the English Lake District World Heritage Site and their settings);
  • It will severely compromise Cumbria’s chances of securing a sustainable economic future and fulfilling its potential as a leader in the green revolution,
  • It will lock West Cumbria into a short-term boom-and-bust cycle over a period of 25 years at the most, saddling communities with outdated high-carbon industrial infrastructure and skillsets and limited prospects to participate in the green revolution and a net zero carbon economy. 

It is not in the interests of the common good for development of this mine to go ahead.  It is unsustainable in the true meaning of the word in that it will leave the world a worse place for future generations.  Friends of the Lake District firmly believes that the environment and therefore the wider public interest is not served by this development.

You can read our letter to the Planning Inspector here 

Friends of the Earth have put together a helpful information sheet on how to go about sending a representation to the Inspector and also how to register to speak at the Planning Inquiry.  You can find the information sheet here, it contains some more information about the proposed development along with links to the original planning documents, Lord Deben’s letter on behalf of the Climate Change Committee and the email address/postal address to send your comments to.

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

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