Europe is Still Burning....

Russia is the biggest exporter of coal to Europe supplying 41% of the coal imported into the European Union in 2017. 76% of Russia’s coal is mined in Kuzbass – an area in southwest Siberia and most of the coal produced there is shipped to Europe and Asia.

Valentina Bekrinova, a native Shor person living in the village of Chuvashka, Kuzbass, Siberia says, “In front of the house is the Sibirginsky mine. On the other side of the house there is a waste tip from another mine. Our village is surrounded by coal mining, and the dust which blows from the mines and waste heaps coats everythingI’m afraid that Shor people will soon become extinct. This is why the most important thing is the protection of our ecology, our rivers, our taiga for the protection of our nation. We cannot live without [them].

While the impacts of burning coal in power station on our climate receives some attention the human and local ecological consequences are almost always overlooked. But the consequences are dire:

I wish that people became more aware of where their coal comes from. And about the consequences” says Luz Angela Uriana Epiayu, mother of Moisés Daniel, a young child who is seriously ill with lung disease living next to the Cerrejón coal mine, owned by foreign interests.

The giant open-pit Cerrejón coal mine in La Guajira, northern Colombia. The mine is the biggest of its kind in the world and is jointly owned by Anglo American, BHP and Glencore. The Cerrejón mine is in Wayúu indigenous territory and when mining began over 30 years ago, local people were not consulted. Instead their lands were seized, and communities were forcibly displaced, violating their constitutional land rights. The Colombian government has failed to adequately compensate any of the affected communities. Pollution and dust from the coal mine has caused the contamination of water supplies and the air.

Narlis Guzmán Angulo a human rights defender from Cesar in Colombia living near the Drummond coal mine says, “In La Sierra we have always been able to feed ourselves with our agriculture, but that is over... Opencast coal mining ruined everything. It has brought us all this: the collapse of the social fabric, unemployment, death, missing persons, displaced persons, political corruption, the loss of the vocation of our ancestors, the loss of our roots, environmental pollution, disease, prostitution, the sexual commercialisation of children, drug addiction, and poisoned water...”.

The answer to these problems is not to open more coal mines in Europe. True solidarity with people at the front-lines of coal extraction means closing all coal mines globally and to move rapidly away from technology which relies on coal and produces vast emissions.

Read the full report https://stillburning.net/book/ and also see films about these issues by Still Burning here.

Lloyd's of London online rally - Safer spaces agreement

Lloyd's of London online rally - Safer spaces agreement

We welcome everyone, regardless of life or organising experiences, in this space. We believe each of us has something to contribute to the struggle for climate justice, and much to learn from others.

We are committed to creating a space where everyone is treated as equal, and people are not afraid to speak, ask for questions, and contribute to discussions. We seek to see our differences as just that, differences not ways to drive us apart.

We define oppression as any behaviour that demeans, marginalises, threatens or harms anybody. We collectively commit to challenging it, whether it shows up in language, or actions. If anyone were to display such behaviour towards others, the organisers will take a course of action discussed between them and those who have suffered from the behaviour. This might include talking to the perpetrator, soliciting an apology, or - in some scenarios - asking the perpetrator to leave the space.

We are aware of the range of different identities that people might bring to this space, including - but not limited to - genders, races, religious, classes, sexualities, abilities. We don’t make assumptions about people. This is a trans-inclusive space, and we respect people’s chosen use of pronouns. If you are unsure about people’s names or pronouns, ask, offering yours.

In particular, we take into account these principles:

Consent. We do not assume that our own physical or emotional boundaries are the same as someone else’s. Ask for explicit consent before talking about sensitive topics.

Be aware of your own privileges. Societies has raised us with hidden hierarchies, which play up in organising spaces. Actively challenge them. Be aware of how much space you are taking, and who you are excluding as a consequence.

Calling out. If you are being called out because of your behaviour, listen and reflect, even though your first reaction might be of defending yourself.

Learning. Ask if you don’t understand something, but don’t expect an immediate explanation. Don’t assume that people with lived experiences of oppression will answer you. You might be redirected to a resource, such as a book or a website. We all have responsibility to do our own learning, and if able to, talk about it with others.

Labour. We are all expected to contribute something to our struggle. It is ok to make mistakes, and to ask for help if needed. Thank people for the work they have done. Also consider what tasks you are taking up, and why - those can be reflective of your privilege. For example, it is a societal expectation that women do housework, which can reflect into women taking up more tasks such as cleaning, or cooking.

Security. Take into account that online organising spaces are not safe. During physical gatherings, we cannot guarantee the absence of journalists, or even undercover police officers. Don’t talk about something that could put you or other people at risk of harm.

Community accountability. We are all accountable for respecting these principles. If you notice something in breach of this policy, raise it with the safer spaces policy rep: daniel@coalaction.org.uk

Get involved in fighting against the Cumbrian coal mine

“Nothing neutral in new coal” - youth activists pressure government to stop coking coal mine

Urgent youth virtual action

Thanks to everyone who helped, this action was a success and resulted in this coverage, ‘Coal is not the goal’: Teenage climate activists deliver petition to government over Cumbria coal mine

Opposition is growing to a plan for a massive underground coking coal mine under the sea near Whitehaven, in the north west of England. Cumbria County Council gave permission for the mine to extract nearly 3 million tonnes of coal until 2049. The coal is mostly for export and is ‘coking’ coal that would be consumed by the carbon-intensive steel industry. [1] Despite this, the mining company claim the coal mined would be ‘carbon neutral’.., and the Council believed them! Mining new coal can never be carbon neutral of course, but if there’s any doubt, here’s an expert explaining why. We're angry that the government is failing to stop this coal mine, not least in the same year that it hosts the COP26 global climate summit. The government can still stop this mine.
Thanks to everyone who sent us photos are part of this process. We are going to be putting them into a film and releasing them to the media and on social media soon. Watch this space!

For those who sent us photos, you agreed that: By sending us a photo, you and your parent/guardian agree for us to use the photo in the video described, on our website and social media, and to share with third-party video producers and media. You also understand that you may be identifiable from the photo and the photo may be used in related campaigns in the future. We won't publish your name unless it’s in your image, or we ask you first. If you change your mind later, we can delete your photo but we cannot remove it where others have saved it/shared it.

Many thanks,

Anne Harris and the team at Coal Action Network

 

References

[1] Cumbria County Council Executive Director - Economy and Infrastructure, Development

control and regulation committee Application Reference No:4/17/90077.17 (2 October 2020)

[2] Ember, Europe’s coal power collapse exposes steel plants as Europe’s biggest emitters (2019) https://ember-climate.org/project/ets-2019-release/

 

Key facts and figures on the West Cumbria Mining Project

What's been proposed?

West Cumbria Mining Ltd. want to extract 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal a year from under the sea near Whitehaven in a ‘deep’ coal mine. Cumbria County Council gave permission for them to do so until 2049 in October 2020. The coal is predominantly for export and would be consumed by the steel industry.

What is coking coal?

Coking coal is a type of coal used in steel works to create steel using blast furnaces. In the UK, the second and third biggest single site emitters of CO2e (gasses which cause climate change) are Port Talbot and Scunthorpe steel works respectively, which both use coking coal.i Coking coal (also known as metallurgical coal) is a reducing agent in the creation of steel from iron. It has a higher monetary value than thermal coal which is used in power stations to generate electricity.

Producing steel from coal is a high carbon process. If this mine were to go ahead and the coal was extracted and consumed it would produce 9 million tonnes of CO2e a year,ii at a time when we need to drastically reduce the emissions, especially in the most affluent countries.

Where would the coal go if it was extracted?

West Cumbria Mining Ltd. say that 83% of the coal extracted would be sold abroad,iii via the port at Redcar potentially to Europe. Only up to 17% is expected to be used in the UKiv because this coking coal has a high sulphur content.v If the British steel industry use too much, it risks exceeding the sulphur dioxide limits plants must adhere to. Sulphur dioxide causes acid rain.

But we need coking coal to make steel don't we?

No. Using coking coal is just one way to produce steel. Two of the four large steel manufacturers in the UK (Liberty Steel and Celsa) use electric arc furnaces to recycle scrap steel into new steel. This doesn't use coking coal. Direct Reduction Iron, another way to make steel, doesn't rely on coal to reduce the iron, although sometimes it does use it.vi

Most of the big steel makers are investing and innovating so that they can decarbonise the steel sector. There aren't big UK projects doing this at the moment. The HYBRIT project in Sweden is expecting to be making commercial-scale steel by 2026.vii Various methods are being worked on, including those looking to use hydrogen and those which propose using unsustainable fuels like fossil gas to reduce iron until green hydrogen (where the energy comes from renewable electricity) is available. The Climate Change Committee has said, “Government should set targets for ore-based steelmaking ... in the UK to reach near-zero emissions by 2035”. When this happens the UK won't be using any coking coal by 2035, 14 years before this mine is due to stop production.viii

Onland infrastructure of the proposed mine, the majority of the extraction site is below the sea

What's the process so far?

Cumbria County Council have approved the application for a deep coal mine twice, although the councillors showed that they didn't fully understand the climate change implications. Amendments were made to the first application due to a successful Judicial Review. The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, said that if the Council was intending to approve the application he would consider calling it in and making the decision himself. He has since decided not to intervene.

Why does this decision matter?

Steel making using coal is an emissions intensive industry. This is worsening the impacts of climate change and increasing the negative impacts across communities globally as well as biodiversity collapse. The UK is hosting the COP26 climate change summit in November of this year. The government is pushing the Powering Past Coal Alliance and wants to be seen as active on action on climate change issues. Approving a new coal mine goes against this. Failure to intervene in this matter sends a signal to other governments that it’s acceptable to call yourself a ‘leader’ on climate change whilst continuing climate-wrecking practices. Following Robert Jenrick's decision, the Climate Change Committee wrote to him asking him to outlining the climate and international political issues of his decision.ix

What can we do to stop this application?

There are a number of groups who are working to ensure that this mine does not get the full go-ahead. Permission is still needed for the section of the mine under the sea from the Marine Management Organisation and from the Coal Authority.

 

References

iEmber, Coal Free Kingdom (13th November 2019) https://ember-climate.org/project/coal-free-kingdom/ and Drax Group, Enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future page 39 (2019) https://www.drax.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/Drax_AR2019_Web.pdf

iiCumbria County Council Executive Director - Economy and Infrastructure, Development control and regulation committee Application Reference No:4/17/90077.17 (2 October 2020) point 7.107 page 35

iiiCumbria County Council Executive Director - Economy and Infrastructure, Development control and regulation committee Application Reference No:4/17/90077.17(2 October 2020) point 7.130 page 38

iv0.36 million tonnes out of 2.78 million tonnes produced annually Cumbria County Council Executive Director - Economy and Infrastructure, Development control and regulation committee Application Reference No:4/17/90077.17 (2 October 2020) point 7.17 page 20

vCumbria County Council Executive Director - Economy and Infrastructure, Development control and regulation committee Application Reference No:4/17/90077.17 (2 October 2020) multiple points page 32

viInternational Iron Metallics Association, DRI production, viewed 1 February 2021, https://www.metallics.org/dri-production.html

viiBloomberg Green, Sweden Moves Closer to Making Fossil-Fuel-Free Steel (31 August 2020)

https://www.bloombergquint.com/business/sweden-advances-on-road-to-fossil-free-steel-with-three-way-jv

viiiClimate Change Committee, Policies for the Sixth Carbon Budget and Net Zero (December 2020) https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/sixth-carbon-budget/page 96, table 4.1

ixCImate Change Committee, Letter: Deep Coal Mining in the UK (29th January 2020) https://www.theccc.org.uk/publication/letter-deep-coal-mining-in-the-uk/

Disappointment as Government allows underground coking coal mine application to go ahead

We're disappointed to let you know that on the 6th January 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick said that the government will not step in and review Cumbria County Council's decision to approve the Woodhouse Colliery Application.

West Cumbria Mining want to extract nearly 3 million tonnes of coking coal for export to Europe every year until 2049 from a site next to the coast at Whitehaven, Cumbria. In October 2020 Cumbria Council approved the amended application by West Cumbria Mining. Robert Jenrick has said in advance of the hearing, that if this were the decision he would consider 'calling it in' and deciding the application himself.

Campaign Group, South Lakes Action on Climate Change, towards transitions said in a statement, "The Secretary of State has decided NOT to "call in" the planning application! We are extremely disappointed (but not surprised) that Robert Jenrick is insisting that West Cumbria Mining's plan to extract nearly 3 million tonnes of coal a year is not considered to be of national importance, and can be simply a local decision. Even though Cumbria County Council restricted the permission to the end of 2049, rather than 2070 [as WCM had applied for] this is still an outrageous decision that flies in the face of the UK's promises to address climate change and their claim to leadership through this year's COP 26.

Very little of this coal will be suitable for the UK steel industry, and it will be exported with no enforceable control on where or how it is used. It will give rise to around 9 million tonnes of CO2e emissions annually for the next 30 years, and is likely to undermine both the decarbonisation of the steel industry and also the emerging pledges to reduce emissions.

However this is not the end of the struggle. Even before County Council issues the Decision Notice, SLACC's legal team at Richard Buxtons Solicitors will be assessing the options for taking further legal action." If you'd like to help SLACC's continued action against this application, could you donate to, or share their crowdfunder https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/westcumbriamineslacc/

At the October planning hearing it was clear that several of the Cumbria County Councillor's did not fully understand the climate change impacts of the proposal. Nor did they understand the submission from Professor Paul Ekins showing that extracting coking coal in the UK increases the amount of coal consumed, as it will be used in addition to that imported to Europe from abroad.

This is a missed opportunity for the UK government to show a commitment to tackling climate change and to place their faith in steel companies converting to use existing and developing ways to produce steel without coal. There are various ways being investigated to further this campaign against the mine. Sign up to our email list to be part of it.

Local campaigners save Dewley Hill from Banks Group's opencast plan

451 Newcastle residents write to their councillors

Newcastle residents write to their councillors

Last week 451 Newcastle residents wrote to thee councillors representing the part of Newcastle in which they live. They asked that the planning committee reject Banks Group's application to extract coal by opencast at Dewley Hill on the western outskirts of the city. A copy of the letter addressed to all councillors together is below.

The planning hearing will take place on Friday the 18th December. For details see this page.

Re. Application to mine coal and fire clay at Dewley Hill, Application Number 2019/0300/01/DET

The letter

Dear Newcastle Councillors,

We, the undersigned are writing to you, our local representatives, to explain our objection to a planning application to extract coal and fireclay by opencast from Dewley Hill, North of Throckley.

Banks Group and Ibstock brick seeks to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal and 400,000 tonnes of fireclay from 112 hectares of Newcastle's greenbelt at Dewley Hill, which sits to the North of the A69 near Throckley. Here is a video (https://vimeo.com/455806042) where local residents explain why this land is so important to them, and what it would mean to have an opencast here.

Many of us have already written to the planning department, joining over an estimated 5,000 individual objections, and over 18,950 petition signatories in asking for this application to be rejected. In September 2020, the Secretary of State for Housing Communities and Local Government, Robert Jenrick, rejected an application by the same company to extract 2.765 million tonnes of coal by opencast, from Highthorn just inland of Druridge Bay.

Implications from the rejection of Highthorn opencast

The decision to reject the application at Highthorn is significant as the main grounds for rejection also apply to this application. The Highthorn application failed to meet the National Planning Policy Framework, paragraph 211. The application to opencast at Dewley Hill doesn't meet this framework either.

“211. Planning permission should not be granted for the extraction of coal unless:

a) the proposal is environmentally acceptable, or can be made so by planning conditions or obligations; or
b) if it is not environmentally acceptable, then it provides national, local or community benefits which clearly outweigh its likely impacts (taking all relevant matters into account, including any residual environmental impacts).”

A new opencast coal mine on greenbelt of Newcastle is not environmentally acceptable, would harm local wildlife, pollute the Ouse and Dewley Burns and, in combination with the air pollution from the A69, would negatively impact our health.

At Highthorn, Banks Group failed to show that there was sufficient need for coal for industry and the Secretary of State felt that Banks Group's assertion of ongoing non-power station demand was overstated. The same applies here. The Digest of United Kingdom Energy Statistics 2020 says that in 2019 of all coal types demand was “down by 36 per cent compared to 2018.”1

Banks claim that coal from the Dewley Hill site would be used by industry, yet fails to declare its industrial customers buying coal from its other opencast mines. Tata Steel is investigating alternative ways to produce steel than using coal, so its non-binding support does not demonstrate a market for the coal. Therefore, the preconceived national, local or community benefits do not outweigh the harm.2

In July, Durham County Councillors rejected Banks Group's application to extend the Bradley opencast coal mine contrary to the Planning Officer's recommendation. The Councillors were concerned that increased coal availability would reduce the drive to low carbon steel production.

Increased coal supply increases coal use

If the application to extract coal at Dewley Hill were to be approved, it would result in additional coal available for consumption. Extracting coal from a new site would not substitute for coal mined elsewhere, it would add to it.3 Overall there would be an increase in greenhouse gas emissions. The reality is that the vast majority of greenhouse gases released from the full lifecycle of coal come from the final use of the coal. Emissions from transport is a minor consideration.

At present Banks Group is not extracting coal anywhere. The four operational opencast coal mines in the UK will soon close or have an uncertain future. There are no other proposals to open new opencast coal mines in the UK, there simply isn't the demand for UK coal.

The Government has committed to reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2050, to reach this heavy industry must decarbonise fast. Supplying additional coal to the market delays and stunts investment in low carbon technologies. The biggest single emitter of carbon dioxide in the UK is Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks,4 which is looking to convert to recycle scrap steel5 leaving just one company making steel using coal, this demonstrates industry desire to move away from coal.

Planning policies

In addition to paragraph 211 of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) the following policies also need to be considered which this application contravenes:

Paragraph 11d of the NPPF as the adverse impacts of granting planning permission would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits specifically in respect of adverse landscape, visual and residential amenity impacts.

Policy DM32 point 1 of the Newcastle Development and Allocations plan (DAP) states that mineral operations will only be supported where it would be demonstrated that 16 considerations are mitigated against. Importantly this includes landscape character, air quality; surface and groundwater and drainage; and climate change, all of which are not properly mitigated against in this application. Applications on this site in 1990 and 1996 were turned down for these very reasons, including that it encroached on natural space and greenbelt land.

The proposed site lies in the Newcastle Green belt. As such policy CS19 of the Core Strategy and Urban Core Plan needs to be complied with. In the Development and Allocations plan, the land where the proposed application sits is allocated as Wildlife Enhancement Corridors and as such policies CS1 and CS19 must be considered.6

Finally, with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic many people are spending far more time at home and are really appreciating outdoor access, which needs to be protected. This application offers nothing to the community. We need our green space now, as well as in the future.

Please join us in speaking out against this mine and discussing it with the Councillors on the planning committee.

Yours sincerely,

 

451 local residents whose names and postcodes were provided to the council

Message from Jos from Defend Dewley Hill

My name is Jos and I’m part of the team at Defend Dewley Hill. We're a group of residents from Throckley near Newcastle, who set out to save our local landscape from opencast coal extraction, and we really need your support.

Banks Mining have applied to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal and 400,000 tonnes of fireclay from Dewley Hill on the fringe of our village in Throckley.

We know that coal is the most catastrophic fossil fuel for our climate and that industries such as steel are rapidly developing new technology to eradicate coal use.

Despite Newcastle City Council declaring a climate emergency, we’re facing the prospect of the last opencast mine in England threatening our village.

None of us set out on the journey to become activists, but this bunch of taxi drivers, occupational therapists, managers, shop assistants, care workers, teachers, young and older people alike, have joined forces to defend the land we live on and have inadvertently become a campaign group together striving to see an end to fossil fuels.

We are raising funds for legal advice to help our group to have the best chance possible of defeating the coal mine this year. Newcastle City Council will make a decision in the month and we need to be ready to challenge the council's expected recommendation to approve it, or to fight the mining company's appeal.

We’ve worked hard to highlight our plight and speak out about our concerns. We’ve held demonstrations and walks on the land. We’ve made films and interviewed people about their past experiences. There are banners round the boundary and we have encouraged thousands of people to object

We're a community full of love for our land and brimming with energy and ideas, but we're not a wealthy community, so the costly legal advice could be a barrier to us in fighting this last leg we so need to win.

The only way we can win this is through reaching out to people who care...which is why we need you.

See the crowdfunder page for more information on the legal actions we are preparing to take to stop the opencast coal site. (https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/defend-dewley-hill/)

Coal is a proud part of our history in the North East, but it is not our future. This is the only remaining application for opencast coal mining in the UK, and if we can defeat it, then there's every chance it will be the last.

Please support us and contribute whatever you can to our crowdfunder to help us make a significant last stand against opencast coal mining.

Thank you

Jos
Defend Dewley Hill