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Coal Roundup May 2021

Opencast coal extraction

The last opencast coal mine in England should now have closed, as has East Pit in Neath Port Talbot Wales. This leaves two operating in Wales and none in Scotland.[1]

The existing mines, by company are:

Celtic Energy: Nant Helen, Powys (due to close December 2021)

Merthyr (South Wales): Ffos-y-fran, Merthyr Tydfil (due to close in 2022)

Other former opencast sites are being put back. Banks Group is expected to vacate the Pont Valley, Durham in June 2021.

There are currently no planning applications for new opencast coal mines in the UK after Banks Group had three proposals refused in 2020 thanks to incredible campaigning by local groups.

Power Station Closures

Drax power station has stopped burning coal after decades of importing coal from the USA, Russia, Colombia and UK mines. Drax has dropped plans to convert the coal units to gas. Much of the wood for its biomass comes from the clear-felling of biodiverse forests in Europe and the Southern USA which are home to many rare and endangered species.

EDF are closing their West Burton coal power station in September 2022. West Burton burns coal from Banks Group’s opencast mines in the North East of England, as well as imported coal.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. It has recently been announced that Kilroot will stop consuming coal in September 2023.

At Ratcliffe on Soar power station the owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity. There is no planning permission for this yet. It is the only UK coal power station without an date announced for it to cease using coal.

Coal phase-out
in the UK is expected by October 2024. Given that coal consumption in power stations is very low in the summer, the last generation could be April 2024.

Underground Mining

There are currently no underground mines operating of significant size.

Proposed Underground Mines

West Cumbria Mining had their proposal for a new underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven, Cumbria called in by the Secretary of State. This means that the council's previous decisions to approve the application will be thoroughly investigated by the Planning Inspectorate in September 2021 before the Secretary of State decides whether the mine will be stopped.

New Age Explorations (an Australian company) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar, on the border between England and Scotland. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044.

UK Steel producers

There are four major UK steel producers:

Tata Steel
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide.[2] The plant uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces.

Liberty

Liberty Steel, which has sites in Newport and in Tredegar, has said it aims to become a carbon-neutral steel producer by 2030.[3] The site currently uses Electric Arc Furnaces and recycles scrap metal so does not use coking coal.

British Steel

Currently British steel's Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen Steel making.[4] It currently uses coking coal.

Celsa

Celsa's Cardiff steelworks uses 100% recycled scrap steel in its products and so does not need coking coal.[5]

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References

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

[2] Ember, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019)

[3] https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/steel-carbon-emissions-port-talbot-19927484

[4] https://britishsteel.co.uk/who-we-are/sustainability/

[5] http://www.celsauk.com/

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

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