Actions against the proposed coal mine at Whitehaven since Govt approval

Groups have taken action since the government approved a new coal mine, proposed for Whitehaven, Cumbria, on the 8th December 2022—including:

Just Stop Oil supporters have targeted the offices of Conservative MP Mark Jenkinson in Maryport, Cumbria on the 26th April four individuals plastered his officers with posters that read: “Mark Jenkinson is telling giant porkies about coal & jobs. He just wants to please his Tory billionaire chums. The rich will get richer, the jobs won’t last & no-one needs the coal…” A group of Just Stop Oil supporters joined the action takers outside the office, putting up ‘Crime Scene’ tape and holding up signs saying ‘PEOPLE vs COAL’. It is not the first protest against Mark Jenkinson for his support of the proposed mine.

The insurance industry found itself in the spotlight over the end of February/ beginning of March as a Global Week of Action blossomed across the world beginning February 27th. In a wave of protests, both online and in the streets, swept through the doors of insurance giants, demanding accountability over their support for polluters and decisive action on climate change. In the UK many of these actions called on insurance companies to refuse to insure the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). More details here. Yet another leading insurance company, Probitas, has ruled out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine.

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 flyers highlighting risks to investments in mining that mining companies want to hide—such as successful grassroots resistance to mining projects around the world.

On Friday 27th October, visitors and residents travelling in Cumbria were met by a powerful message of opposition to the proposed new coal mine at Whitehaven. Large banners were hung at major roads across the county, declaring this is “No Time for a Coal Mine”. The banners were hung at the M6 junction at Penrith, on the A66 at Keswick and Cockermouth, on bridges over the Staveley by-pass and the A591 at Kendal, at Garsdale Head and at Whitehaven itself.

Meanwhile, posters emblazoned with “No Time for a Coal Mine” appeared all around Kendal and Penrith. On Saturday 28th October, the Cumbrian Canaries made an outing at the Winter Droving festival in Penrith, raising the alarm about the proposed coal mine and handing out around 800 leaflets to the revellers.

October's Speakers' Corner hosted Prof. Julia Steinberger, an IPCC 6th Assessment Report author who said that demand reduction is needed to reduce the worst impacts of climate change, and that we already have the technology to ensure this can happen while ensuring a comfortable life. There were 5 other brilliant speakers.

The event was planned to mark the first day of the legal challenge against the Government's approval of the mine proposal, but the hearing has been postponed until after a linked case, which will decide whether the end use emissions need to be considered when giving planning consent. This would mean that the emissions from consuming coal from this site in steelworks would need to be counted, not just those released from mining. Further Speaker's corner events took place in November and December.

On the 18th October, hundreds of protesters occupied 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 the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Earlier that day the protesters marched waving banners saying “Don’t Insure EACOP” and “Don’t Insure West Cumbria Mine” to three high profile buildings including the “Walkie Talkie” where in a coordinated swoop, activists are causing disruption in the office foyers of Ascot, Talbot, Chaucer, Markel, Allied World, CNA Hardy, Tokio Marine Kiln, Sirius International and Lancashire Syndicates. The activists staged a sit-in. More details here.

On the 15th September, the Global day of action against fossil fuel finance, kicked off demonstrations at the offices of Lloyd of London Insurance companies kicking off the campaign to ensure West Cumbria Mining Ltd don't get insurance for the proposed coal mine. Demonstrations took place in places including London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, York, Wrexham, Croydon and Cardiff.

At September's Speakers' Corner event the demonstrators heard from Sarah Finch, Weald Action Group, about the proposal to extract oil in Surrey - which she is challenging in the Supreme Court.

Michael Gove referenced the High Court decision on the case of Horse Hill in Surrey, and used that case to justify excluding the greenhouse gas emissions that would arise from burning the coal from the mine. Sarah's court case questions how end use emissions can be ignored in projects like oil or coal extraction. The Horse Hill decision is awaited and will likely influence the outcome of the legal challenges against the Whitehaven proposal and therefore whether the mine goes ahead.

At the end of August 2023 Earth First! squatted the site of the proposed Whitehaven coal mine and held a week long gathering packed with inspiring discussions, delicious food, wonderful workshops, lots of sock wrestling and some spectacular sunsets! It was a week of radical ecological existence, bursting with love and burning with revolutionary spirit. Their message was

"This mine will not go ahead, leave the coal in the hole!The world is burning. More and more people are waking up to the reality we are faced with: we must end not just fossil fuels but also the capitalist system that places profit above planet and people."

As thousands of visitors travelled into Cumbria for the busy August bank holiday they were met with a powerful statement: 25 large banners opposing the proposed new coal mine near Whitehaven with the words ‘NO TIME for a COAL MINE’ on all the roads into Cumbria.

Leafleting also happened in Carlisle, Keswick, Kirkby Lonsdale and Penrith with a good reception.

Not Coal, Not Dole, speakers' corner on the 22nd July Just Transition and Climate Jobs saw people come to the proposed site from across the North. Speakers included: Willie Black from Scot E3 and Unite the Union; Joseph Healey, Left Unity and Unite the Union, Gail Bradbrook founder of Extinction Rebellion whose father was a coal miner and Clara Paillard Former President of PCS union Culture group compared.

30th June speakers' corner where those there heard four very informative and inspirational speakers - all of whom underlined the extreme recklessness of even considering building a new coal mine; and pointed out how what west Cumbria - and especially its young people - needed, and could have, was many more good, long-term, green jobs that didn't wreck the climate and, instead, would help build a better & more sustainable future for the local community.

Chris Packham joined Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion and others at the first ‘Speaker’s Corner’ event outside the gates of the proposed site in May 2023. This is now a regular event.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change and Friends of the Earth are running legal challenges against the Government’s December 2022 approval of the coal mine. Both organisations assert that the decision to grant planning permission for the coal mine was unlawful, as the Secretary of State did not properly consider the climate impacts of this mine. A judge will decide if there is a case to answer, and, if so, will hear that case in a three day trial 24th to 26th October.

Extinction Rebellion North Lakes and others at the ‘Big One’ protests in London in April protested outside Javelin Commodities, because the company has agreed to sell any coal extracted from the site to steelmakers, predominantly outside of the UK. During 4 days of protests there were numerous banners and placards from various groups against the proposal in Cumbria.

In February 2023, vicars and other Christians protested outside the Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle offices of Ward Hadaway, lawyers for West Cumbria Mining Ltd, and the London headquarters of Javelin Global Commodities, who intend to sell coal for West Cumbria Mining Ltd. Christian Climate Action are calling on both companies to “cut the ties” with the proposed new coal mine in Cumbria. The protesters held banners with the message ‘Coal is killing humanity’ and delivered letters asking the organisations to end their involvement with West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the coal mine.

In mid-January Extinction Rebellion protested dressed as canaries outside of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that approved the application, lighting smoke bombs and spreading out a fake oil slick.

Just before Christmas (2022) a gang of Santas delivered sacks of faux coal to Michael Gove for being a very naughty boy at his Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities in an action by Coal Action Network and Lush cosmetics. The Santas held signs reading “Christmas coal for climate criminal Gove” after Gove’s approval of the coal mine application.

A wide range of groups and individuals protested at the proposed coal mine site outside Whitehaven in December 2022 during the week following the Government’s approval of work at the site. There were speeches and a commitment to ensure that this coal stays in the ground.

XR North Lakes gathered in Penrith on December 9th following the Government’s approval of the mine scheme.

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