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Lochinvar proposal - a licence to harm

Update - Sat 15th October 2022 the Scottish Government De Facto banned coal mining. As such this article is for historic interest only, this is not a live campaign.

New Age Exploration Ltd (NAE Ltd) proposes to extract up to 33.7 million tonnes of coking coal for steelworks in the UK and beyond between 2025 and 2051 from a mine under Gretna and Canonbie, near Carlisle, in South West Scotland. This may worsen local air quality, reduce the value of nearby residential properties, make local roads more dangerous with HGV traffic, and will emit around 73 million tonnes of CO2 and around 750 thousand tonnes of methane, a powerful climate change accelerant.

NAE Ltd has a conditional licence from The Coal Authority and aims to secure full planning permission by 2023-4.

Impacts

Local impacts

  • NAE Ltd are considering a method of deep coal mining that can lead to surface level collapse and disruption of watercourses.
  • Local roads will see a sharp increase in heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) relied on for mine construction and remediation, and likely throughout for some coal and materials transport.
  • Air pollution is created by mining that can be blown into surrounding residential areas.
  • Property value may be impacted by nearby underground mining works.

Global impacts

  • This coal mine will emit a total of around 73 million tonnes of CO2 and around 750 thousand tonnes of methane (3.04 million tonnes of CO2 and 31,000 tonnes methane every year).
    • In terms of the methane alone (a powerful climate accelerant), that’s roughly equivalent to 2 gas plants operating year round, or a year's emissions from 150,000-178,000 cars - Global Energy Monitor.

Key facts and figures (2020)

  • Coal to be extracted: 47.3 million tonnes (13.6 million tonnes of which would be non-target coal extracted in the process and put back underground after), at a rate of 1.9 million tonnes per annum, including non-target coal.
  • Coal to be sold: NAE Ltd estimate a total of 33.7 million tonnes of coal will be extracted and sold - 1.4 million tonnes of coking coal per annum
  • CO2: 100 million tonnes (total)
  • Methane: 750 thousand tonnes (total - GEM)
  • Intended market: UK and Europe.
  • Type of target coal: High-volatile coking coal.
  • Current land use: Primarily dairy cow farming.
  • Envisaged deep mining method: Originally longwall mining, but Bord and Pillar underground mining is now under consideration.
  • Area: 185 km2 covered by 3 conditional licences (Lochinvar North, Central, and South)
  • Anticipated cost: £18 million to secure a full licence for the proposed coal mine over 4 years.
  • Coal quantity: Borehole analysis estimate 49 million tonnes, with a further 62 million tonnes inferred. In total: 111 million tonnes of coal.
  • Time span: 26 years.
  • Coal transport: By rail via the West Coast Main Line for direct delivery to either UK steel mills, or to the port of Hunterston or port of Blyth for shipping into Europe.
  • Relevant Councils: Dumfries and Galloway Council, and Cumbria County Council.

(Company-supplied in the application for a conditional licence to The Coal Authority in 2020. Redacted by The Coal Authority)

Intriguing…

Eyes and ears on the ground: ‘Lochinvar Coal Limited’ employs someone in the role of ‘community-liaison’ based in the town of Canonbie.

Dirty coal: NAE Ltd’s target sulphur content is 1.2-1.4% whereas current imports from USA are less than 1.2%, with some as low as 0.9%. The higher sulphur content of coking coal from the proposed coal mine in West Cumbria recently led an industry leader to rule out its use in UK and European steelworks.

Rolling the dice: based on a Wood Mackenzie forecast of European demand for imported coking coal to grow over 50% from 2017 to 2035. Recently, serious flaws in Wood Mackenzie forecasts were revealed in a public inquiry into the proposed Whitehaven coal mine—as it fails to properly consider rapidly increasing momentum behind green steel.

Best corporate quote: “Investor confidence is then expected to slowly return, making it possible to again raise larger amounts of funding required to progress quality coking coal projects, notwithstanding growing climate change related general anti-coal sentiment globally.” (Licence application to the Coal Authority, 2020)

Shaking the money tin: NAE Ltd claims it is currently progressing discussions for direct investment from potential investors, but its existing relationships have been redacted from the licence application.

Timeline

2012: New Age Exploration Limited (NAE Ltd) acquired the Lochinvar licence. NAE Ltd set up Lochinvar Coal Limited (formerly Canonbie Coal Limited) in 2012 to operate the Lochinvar Coking Coal Project. However, NAE Ltd remains its parent company, and holds the exploration and conditional licences directly.

2013: NAE Ltd drilled 10 deep boreholes to a total of 3,752 metres underground, through its subsidiary, Lochinvar Coal Limited, on the Scottish/English border near the town of Canonbie, to estimate coking coal quantities and access . This follows drilling by The National Coal Board, British Geological Survey, and Greenpark Energy between 1979 and 2009.

2014: NAE Ltd conducted a scoping study, subsequently updated in 2017.

2014-2016: Coal prices fall to historic lows of USD$70/tonne and NAE Ltd put the project on hold as it was unable to raise funding. Prices remained volatile up to 2019, reducing investor confidence.

2019: NAE Ltd conducted a “Project optimisation study” and touted for partners or investors to finance the development of a coal mine—then the UK and many countries went into lockdown as the pandemic was responded to.

2020: NAE Ltd paid a £13,800 application fee to the coal authority for a coal mining and exploration conditional licence.

2021: JHD Exploration Ltd Dumfries and Galloway Council (within which the Lochinvar test-drilling took place received) for the first time since 2013 to notify them of test drilling.

2022: NAE Ltd had its conditional underground licence renewed by the Coal Authority on 21 January 2022—just 4 days before issuing the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion, in Wales, a full licence. This occurred in a changed context of increases in the price of coal through 2021-22, sanctions on Russian coal has driven demand for alternative sources, production has ramped up post-lockdowns, and the UK Government is broadcasting a more favourable approach towards new coal projects again.

Going forward...

2023-2024: Between 2023 and early 2024 NAE Ltd aim to secure planning permission.

2025: Towards the end of 2025, NAE Ltd aim to begin extracting coal.

About NAE Ltd

NAE Ltd is the named coal mine operator for the Coal Authority's Lochinvar conditional licence. NAE Ltd is a reasonably small company Australian-based mining company, listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

Dealings in the UK and elsewhere: NAE are a NAE Ltd previously operated the Redmoor Tin-Tungsten mine in Cornwall under Cornwall Resources Limited, in a joint-venture with Strategic Mineral PLC. NAE Ltd is also advancing gold exploration projects in Australia and New Zealand, and previously (dates) advanced thermal and coking coal exploration projects in Colombia.

Financial turmoil? NAE Ltd's shares have tumbled by over 46% on the Australian Stock Exchange over the past year, and have been erratic over the past 3 years - decline is clear though over the past 6 months.

Is NAE Ltd actually a mining company? From its size, current portfolio, and the sale of its share in the Redmoor Tin-Tungsten mine in the development stage, it appears NAE Ltd is focused on exploration and development rather than long-term mine-operation. Two of the 3 Directors of NAE Ltd have backgrounds in raising capital and equity capital, further signalling the company’s business model.

This means NAE Ltd may look to sell the Lochinvar coal mine to another operator early or at some point during its development. The company that buys the coal mine licence will not be subject to the same financial and competence tests that NAE Ltd has been, raising concerns about how the coal mine will actually be operated.

While NAE Ltd has yet to apply for full planning permission, the preparation for an application is underway.

Outreach

Download a PDF of our leaflet on Lochinvar

Off to the Scottish Climate Camp!

Published: 18/07/2022

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[…] was taken forward into the second day of workshops. Coal Action Network ran a session about the Lochinver coal mine being planned by NAE Ltd in Gretna, near Dumfries and Galloway. There are currently no large coal […]

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