At Coal Action Network, we have always campaigned on the basis that coal mining for coal-fired power should end, now. Because of the impact on the climate, on human health, on human rights, on our environment and wildlife.
What we often come up against is the argument that whilst coal should end, we don’t have a replacement for it yet and since it will still be used for a little while, it still needs to be dug up.
We have always said that we need to push for alternatives to fossil fuels and to reduce our demand for them so that the day that coal mining is not needed can arrive sooner.
Today, the argument for a national need for coal for electricity is over.
New government figures show that the UK has more than double the coal for electricity than it will ever require. This coal is sitting in stockpiles at power stations, while more of it is still being dug up from the ground and imported.
Is this good news or bad news?
The good news: Let’s celebrate! The UK is in the best position possible to leave the world’s most polluting fossil fuel in the ground. This should be persuasive in the Secretary of State’s decision on Highthorn and Druridge which is now due June 13th, and we hope it will also affect Newcastle City Council’s decision on Dewley Hill. Along with Friends of the Earth and Save Druridge, we submitted evidence to the Secretary of State on this matter, and we hope that it will weigh heavily in favour of opening no new mines, and closing existing ones.
If the government can start listening to communities who have been calling for an end to opencast for decades, then this is good news. To achieve that we have to keep up the pressure to hold them accountable!
The bad news: The UK is needlessly continuing to contribute to communities suffering the impacts of opencast coal mining in the UK and Internationally, and contributing to more fossil fuels being burned than needed.
Here are some of the reactions we heard from communities and campaigners fighting the sources of the UK’s over-stocked coal…
Front-line communities react
June Davison, a local resident and campaigner near to the Bradley (Pont Valley, County Durham) site, which has been in operation since June 2018, said; “Every tonne of thermal coal that has come out of the ground at Bradley over the past 10 months has been surplus to the UK’s requirements. Banks Group’s justification for destroying our valley and seeking to open new mines is based on the lie that they are providing for UK household energy needs. The Secretary of State must stop this and ensure that other communities do not suffer needlessly the way we have.”
Vladimir Slivyak, co-chairman for Russian environmental group Ecodefense, said,”The news that the UK power stations continue to buy Russian coal despite having too much already adds insult to injury to those on the front line of opencast coal destruction. Coal mining in Russia means environmental destruction and human rights violations. The more coal tainted with blood the UK buys from Russia, the more damage caused.”
See this report by FERN and Coal Action Network for more on the impacts of coal mining in Russia
Samuel Arragoces, displaced from the community of Tobaco by the Colombian mine Cerrejon, said, ‘We are worried about what is happening in the UK, where the government promised to phase out coal. Coal mining here in La Guajira, Colombia, is causing more suffering every day. Our question for the UK government is, will it keep letting power stations buy this coal now that it will not be needed? Because here the coal mine is seeking to expand, polluting more water sources, stealing more land. Our community leaders are threatened with death for trying to stop this. So will the UK carry on being a marketplace for this coal?’
See our Ditch Coal report for more on the impacts of Coal Mining in Colombia
All coal that is dug up will eventually be burned. If the UK is digging up more coal than it needs, then we’d expect to see it get exported to other countries.
We found that exports of coal from the UK are at an eight year high, increasing 28% in 2018, and sourced from the UK’s opencast coal mines. Celtic Energy (operating 3 mines in Wales) and Hargreaves (operating Fieldhouse in Durham which opened spring 2018) are both on the most recent coal exporters database, so coal from here is being sold abroad.
Dr Richard Denniss, Chief Economist at the The Australia Institute, was categorical that the UK was contributing more to climate change by continuing to mine coal: “Economics 101 tells us that when you increase the supply of something you push down the price. By mining more coal in the UK than is burned in the UK there is no doubt that the UK coal industry is putting downward pressure on world coal prices and, in turn, leading to an increase in consumption of coal globally. This will undermine international commitments to keep global temperature rise under 1.5 degrees to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. The only reason the UK should approve new coal mines, when it already has more coal than it can burn, is if it hopes to increase coal consumption in other countries.”
Local communities are mobilising against all the plans in what could be a crucial moment for the future of coal mining.
Sign the petition to call on James Brokenshire to make the right decision to stop two coal mines this June
Campaign to Protect Pont Valley : https://protectpontvalley.noblogs.org/
Save Druridge : http://www.savedruridge.co.uk/
Defend Dewley Hill : https://defenddewleyhill.org.uk/
 Energy Trends March 2019. Chart 2.4 (Table 2.1) https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/791293/Energy_Trends_March_2019.pdf (stockpiles) & Annex G: Major Power Producers by Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/updated-energy-and-emissions-projections-2018 (projected coal use)
 BEIS Coal production and foreign trade March 2019 Import and Exports of Solid Fuels Table 2
 Panjiva exporters database accessed April 2018.
Coal_ UK has imported and dug up more than twice the coal power stations will ever need
Submission to Secretary of State re. Bradley and Highthorn April 2018
NPCU (out) 26.4.19