The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There are no new opencast mines proposed; only one proposed opencast coal extension and one existing opencast extraction site. However there are three new underground coal mine applications or extensions proposed and there was an increase in coal use in power stations between 2020 and 2021.
As you can see from the image above coal use in power stations has dropped dramatically since 2012, when 43% of electricity in the UK grid was produced from coal combustion, to just 1.72% in 2020.
Coal use hit a record low in 2020 supplying 253 TWh to the grid, and increased slightly the following year to 267 TWh, as the economy ramped back up from covid-19. (The data for 2022 is only for the first fortnight of the year). Thanks to MyGridGB for this data.
There are presently three applications for new/ extended underground coal mines.
Proposed underground mines
Aberpergwm Colliery (Energybuild Ltd) in Neath port Talbot had planning permission for a 40+ million tonne underground (anthracite) coal mine approved in 2018. The Coal Authority offered the coal company, a license to extract coal in January 2022. Coal Action Network are currently considering legal action against the Coal Authority and Welsh Government for failing to stop the mine being licenced.
Lochinvar (Australian New Age Explorations) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar in three sections, on the Scottish border. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044. The first of the three areas would supply an average 1.4 million tonnes of coal each year.
Woodhouse Colliery proposed by West Cumbria Mining had its proposal for a new 1.78 million tonne per year underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven, Cumbria called in by the Secretary of State in 2021. The Planning Inspectorate ran a Public Inquiry in September 2021 and the report is expected to be given to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove imminently.
There are four major UK steel producers, half are using coking coal and produce much higher emissions that the two which recycle scrap steel.
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide. The plant uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces.
Currently British steel’s Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen Steel making. It currently uses coking coal.
Liberty Steel, which has sites in Newport and in Tredegar, has said it aims to become a carbon-neutral steel producer by 2030. The site currently uses Electric Arc Furnaces and recycles scrap metal so does not use coking coal.
Celsa’s Cardiff steelworks uses 100% recycled scrap steel in its products and so does not need coking coal.
For more details see our report Coal in Steel.
Ratcliffe on Soar power was given a contract to supply 411 MW to the grid from coal in 2022/23 at a Capacity Market auction in Feb 2022. Ratcliffe's owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity operational by 2026. It has secured planning permission.
Drax power station is supposed to have stopped burning coal this year. However it has offered that it could stay online until 2024 to the UK government.
EDF are closing their West Burton coal power station in September 2022.
Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. It has been announced that Kilroot will stop consuming coal in September 2023.
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.
 The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.
Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)
‘Energy Recovery Investments Ltd’ is proprosing to extract the coal from 3 large coal tips in Bedwas, Caerphilly, South Wales. The company claims that it would use some of the sales of the coal to restore those coal tips later. The coal tips lie above a coal seam, which the company claims it would coincidentally have to dig into to create ‘lagoons’ for processing the coal from the coal tips…
The Crown Prosecution Service has dropped all charges against the four Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists who blockaded the entrance to the UK’s largest open-cast coal mine, last summer with a pink boat. While removing the immediate burden of legal confrontation for the defendants, the decision has left a “crater of unfinished business” in the fight for climate justice and accountability for local residents…
Citing different grounds to the High Court, the Court of Appeal has nevertheless found against our appeal. The Court of Appeal judges disagreed with the judge in the High Court, and decided that current statute limits Welsh Ministers to only deciding whether a new conditional licence may be issued…
Today, 6th February 2024, Coal Action Network was back in court, this time appealing last year’s decision by the court that the Welsh Government couldn’t prevent an extension at Aberpergwm coal mine.
After months of campaigning, five more major insurance companies have announced they will not support the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP)!
EMR Capital, the company that owns 81% of the proposed West Cumbria Coal mine is currently operating another coking coal mine – Kestrel.
On 23 October 2023, over 30 Wales-based NGOs, businesses, and community groups signed an open letter to Wales’ Climate Change Minister, Julie James, calling for the Welsh Government to ban coal mining once and for all (sent by Climate Cymru). On 10th January 2024, Julie James wrote back…
How did we get here? Ten years of events that have led to where we currently stand with the proposed Whitehaven coal mine
Port Talbot Steelworks in South Wales is the largest producer of virgin steel in the UK. Along with British Steel steelworks in Scunthorpe, Port Talbot steelworks is expected to shut down its blast furnaces in 2024 and build a 3 million tonne (MT) electric arc furnace (EAF) to recycle scrap steel. This is a measure to reduce the steelworks CO2 footprint by cutting out coal used in traditional blast furnaces in virgin steelmaking.