UK government won’t block first deep coal mine in three decades

Wales has a long history of mining, but environmental groups have argued the new mine is "jaw-droppingly inconsistent" with the UK's climate ambition [Rhian/ Pixabay]

Despite pressure from green groups, the UK Government has said it will not intervene in a county council’s decision to approve a deep coal mine – the first facility of its kind to gain planning approval in 30 years, reports EURACTIV’s media partner, edie.net.

Cumbria County Council approved plans put forward by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) late last year, but was told that the Government had the right to call in the decision under planning laws. In a statement on Wednesday (6 January), the local authority said it had received confirmation from Whitehall that this course of action would not be taken.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick reportedly sent a letter to councillors stating that the Government is “committed to giving more power to councils to make their own decisions on planning issues”.

He wrote that he was “content that [the application for the coal mine] should be determined by the local planning authority”.

West Cumbria Mining claims that the mine will be able to open 24 months after construction begins. It hopes to extract 2.5 million tonnes of coal from the undersea mine every year, for use in the UK and European steel industry.

The coal will not be used to generate electricity, given that coal-powered electricity generation must be brought offline by 2024.

The environmental argument from West Cumbria Mining is that using locally sourced coal for steelmaking mitigates emissions from international transport; the sector currently imports around 45 tonnes every year from the US, Canada, Russia and Australia. WCM has also outlined plans for a carbon offsetting scheme.

The company has said the mine will create 500 jobs and pay into a community fund for 10 years.

Anger and disappointment

In total, 2,300 objections to the mine have been logged since 2017. Opposing groups include Friends of the Earth, WWF, Greenpeace, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and local residents’ organisation Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.

Critics of the project argue that it could stifle progress towards aligning the UK’s steel sector with the 2050 net-zero target.  Globally, steel is accountable for around 7% of global emissions from fuel use.

Researchers believe that a combination of electrification, energy storage, alternative fuels and circular economy innovations are needed to align the sector with net-zero. Carbon capture and offsetting are also being explored by some producers.

“Of course, job creation is absolutely vital to communities but we must look forward to the jobs of 21st century, not back to those in declining industries,” Greenpeace UK’s policy director Doug Parr said.

The UK Government is notably aiming for two million ‘green-collar’ jobs by 2030 and has set up a taskforce to deliver against this ambition.

Green groups also said that the decision to permit the project would send the wrong message ahead of COP26 in November. The UK’s campaign as host spotlights the fact that it is the first major economy to set a legally-binding net-zero target and calls on other nations to follow suit.

“Global leadership on the climate emergency means leaving coal in the ground, where it belongs,” Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth said, calling the decision “jaw-droppingly inconsistent” with long-term climate targets.

[Edited by Benjamin Fox]

Supporter

LUKOIL

LUKOIL is one of the largest publicly traded, vertically integrated energy companies in the World. The corporate mission of LUKOIL is to make the energy of natural resources serve the interests of mankind. Every day millions of consumers worldwide buy LUKOIL products, energy and heat, improving the quality of their life.

LUKOIL’s main activities are exploration and production of oil and gas, refining and marketing of petroleum products and petrochemicals, as well as power generation. In order to reduce environmental impact and make efficient use of resources, LUKOIL has developed renewable energy solutions including hydroelectric, solar and wind generation.

LUKOIL conducts its business in a responsible and sustainable way, seeking to strike a balance between socio-economic and environmental development by supporting communities, contributing to the economy and preserving the environment. The company stringently abides by the highest global environmental standards and shares the principles of the United Nations Global Compact ensuring high levels of occupational safety and health. Taking social responsibility for the efficient use of natural resources in all its earnestness and maintaining favorable environmental conditions in its business, LUKOIL is guided by the highest HSE standards. In its operations LUKOIL pursues the sustainable development principles and seeks to achieve a good balance between socio-economic and environmental development.

LUKOIL corporate governance system is based on international best practices and fully incorporates the principles of openness, regulatory requirements, fair competition, and transparency.

LUKOIL ordinary shares are admitted to the Moscow Exchange. LUKOIL depositary receipts are listed on the London and Frankfurt Stock Exchanges, as well as on the US OTC market.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe
Contribute