The UK Government has produced a 15 page letter plus appendices which outlines the reasons for granting permission to the Whitehaven coal mine application (Ref: 4/17/9007). This is mostly in the form of highlighting points on which Michael Gove agrees with the Planning Inspector , Stephen Normington, who also recommended granting permission for the application.
We have criticisms of each argument and are left wondering who’s interests really underpin Gove’s shock decision to approve the coal mine...
Tata steelworks in Port Talbot has publicly called on the UK Government to co-fund its transition to Electric Arc Furnace steel production which uses little or no coal—or it has warned it’ll shut down in 2023. Tata is the largest steelworks in the UK.
British steel industry chiefs have further said that British and European steelworks will be largely unable to use Whitehaven coal as it is too high in sulphur.
This involves some mental gymnastics, but essentially—it’s based on flawed reasoning that because West Cumbria Coal Mining Ltd can’t control how steelworks use the coal, it isn’t responsible for the resulting emissions. If end-use emissions can’t be a reason to refuse the coal mine, neither can end-use be a reason to approve the coal mine, yet end-use is precisely the basis for the coal mine’s approval.
This absurdity is based on coal industry testimony referring to supposed ‘swing suppliers’ of coal in the USA. Not only is this potentially biased and based on one country, it also wasn’t demonstrated that the market it responsive enough to reduce supply with Whitehaven’s production. Yet, Gove’s claim that emissions won’t increase is based on substitution that largely relies on this unsubstantiated testimony. It also rest on the notion that ‘if we don’t do it, someone else will’—an approach if everyone took, would mean no one would ever take action to reduce emissions and large parts of the world would become uninhabitable.
Gove’s letter is careful not to say the coal mine will be net-CO2 neutral, only that it’ll seek to be—because, like all greenwash, it’s quickly shown to be empty promises to justify climate-trashing business as normal. Issues with off-setting aside, the off-setting scheme the coal mine cited in its application publicly rejected working with a coal mine soon after, and the head of Offsetting Gold Standard called the idea of offsetting a coal mine “nonsense”. Whitehaven coal mine will emit 340,000 tonnes of climate accelerating methane, only some of which is intended to be captured, and even the coal operator admits this will only start 4 years into the project.
Given the weakness of Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) and despite the billions pumped into its research and promotion so far, the only way to achieve steelworks decarbonisation will be removing coking coal from steelmaking. CCS has done little more than to continue business-as-normal by gambling on a largely unproven, expensive, energy-intensive technology that may create a future time-bomb and is yet to capture 100% of emissions anywhere.
Gove admits that the Coast-to-Coast pathway that beings in Whitehaven will be significantly and negatively impacted by the coal mine structures. This pathway draws tourism to the area.
Gove’s conclusion that tourism won’t be significantly reduced seems incompatible with admitting the coal mine would have a significantly negative effect on the leading draw for tourism to the area, the Coast-to-Coast pathway.
Arguments for the economic benefits to the area from the coal mine does not consider the costs to the economy from climate change, reduced tourism, and the distraction this creates from supporting sustainable industries creating jobs for the future. It is also based on assumptions such as workers relocating rather than commuting for work at the coal mine.
It’s recognised that the landscape impact from above-ground structures is unacceptable. Yet, without any details, this ‘unacceptable impact’ is somehow quantified into a price, and that is weighed as worth less than the supposed economic benefit of the coal mine. This isn’t a technical decision—it is wholly subjective about what we consider the environment to be worth.
The subject of recent research by Coal Action Network, the UK is littered with under-restored or unrestored coal mines—right now, Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd is threatening to walk away from the UK’s largest coal mine without completing the restoration promised. The promise of restoration is rarely one that is kept and cannot be relied on. The ecosystem, and the lives supported by it, currently on the land also won’t be put back—it is as unique as each of us, and will be lost forever. The idea that a new one will be the same as the old one, that ecosystems and lives are interchangeable, is a subjective view to justify its termination.
We are an environmental organisation dedicated to ending coal mining and use in the UK for the sake of our collective climate and ecosystems. So you’d think we’d celebrate the claim by Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd that it will finally stop mining coal today at Ffos-y-fran in Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales. But we’re not. Because the abject failure of Merthyr County Borough Council to stop…
People hailing from Cumbria to London, and everywhere in between, descended on the Mines and Money Conference in London across two days (28th-29th Nov 2023). We demanded that investors stop pouring cash into the mining sector, and instead invest in our collective future. Together with Fossil Free London and other groups, we greeted investors with…
The insurers that have ruled out underwriting the mine are AEGIS Managing Agency, Argenta Syndicate Management, Hannover Re and Talanx. These are the first financial institutions to rule out any involvement with the project, and the win represents a new phase in the campaign to stop the project from going ahead.
Today’s global actions focused specifically on the state-owned China Export & Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure), the Export-Import Bank of China (China Exim), and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). Sinosure is said to be in advanced talks with the Ugandan government about providing credit for the project.
On 18th October dozens of protesters staged a sit-in occupation of the plush City of London offices of ten Lloyd’s of London insurers demanding they rule out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
Global mining companies are coming to London soon attempting to find investors in their ruinous projects at the Mines and Money Conference (28th to 30th November). Join our protests against it!
01 September 2022: Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd applies for a S.73 time extension to mine coal from Ffos-y-fran, and to accordingly delay and vary restoration works.
06 September 2022: Planning permission ends for coal mining at the Ffos-y-fran site, after 15 years and 3 months of operations.
12 September 2022: first reports to MTCBC have been made by local residents of coaling beyond the end of planning permission.
Over 30 Welsh NGOs and businesses have signed a letter to Welsh Minister Julie James and Deputy Minister Lee Waters, demanding they draw a line in the sand and announce ban on any further coal mines on Welsh soil. The letter was delivered on 11th October 2023.
On 15th September 2023, The Guardian reported that Tata Steel accepted Government funding to avoid closing its steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales, by decarbonising it instead – but at a loss of up to 3,000 jobs. The UK Government is providing £500 million, and Tata Steel is expected to provide another £725 million…