BACK TO TOP

Key facts: Whitehaven coal mine

West Cumbria Mining Ltd want to extract 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal annually, in what would be the UK's first new underground coal mine in 30 years. Cumbria County Council approved the application, but in March 2021, the Government decided it will make the final decision as a result of demands from many people and Offices, including over 113,999 people supporting Coal Action Network's demand the government call in the decision.

Key facts & figures

Coal & refuse to be excavated: 67 million tonnes in total - almost 3 million tonnes per annum (at full production) - WCM Planning Statement, Sep 2021

Coal to be sold: 64 million tonnes of coal in total - 2.78 million tonnes of coal per annum (at full production) - WCM Planning Statement, Sep 2021

CO2: Approximately 200 million tonnes of CO2 in total - 8,800 million tonnes of CO2 per annum at full production (2022 BEIS Conversion Factors)

Methane: 340,000 tonnes of methane which is 34 million tonnes CO2 equivalent (not included in the figures above) - 15,000 tonnes of methane per annum at full production (mid-range estimate, measured over 20 years, Global Energy Monitor's Global Coal Mine Tracker)

Coal operator: West Cumbria Mining (Holdings) Limited, which is 82% owned by EMR Capital Investment Limited (No. 3B PTE Ltd) registered in Singapore.

Type: Coking (metallurgical) coal

Claimed destination: primarily burned in steelworks in the UK and Europe

Local Planning Authority: Cumbria County Council

Address: from the former Marchon site, Pow Beck Valley, to St. Bees Coast, Whitehaven, West Cumbria

Physical size: principal seams to be worked would be the Bannock Band and Main Band, which are at a depth of approximately 350 metres over 23ha

Time: applying for planning permission from 2022-2049

Published: 03/08/2022

Lochinvar proposal - a licence to harm

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)

  • 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.
    • NAE Ltd estimate a total of 33.7 million tonnes of coal will be extracted and sold (a further 13.6 million tonnes of non-target coal would be extracted in the process and returned).
  • Rate: 1.4 million tonnes of coking coal per year (1.9 million tonnes including non-target coal).
  • Time span: 26 years.
  • CO2: 73 million tonnes (total)
  • Methane: 750 thousand tonnes (total - GEM)
  • 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

UK Government’s consultation on the Energy Capacity Market

In response to the "Technical Amendments to Improve Auction Liquidity".

Coal Action Network is concerned by the content of the proposals:

  • Postponement of the introduction of the statutory requirement for independent verification of fossil fuel emissions
  • Amendments to arrangements on mothballed plant to remove a barrier to prequalification for mothballed plants that would otherwise prevent their prequalification for the 2023 CM auctions.

The independent verification of applicants’ fossil fuel emissions was to be introduced to improve the reliability of this important information, and give confidence to the data reported by companies given access to the UK energy generation market. The postponement of this introduction therefore lengthens the doubts cast over the claims made by applicants to the capacity market. The Government claims the reason for the postponement is that there may not be enough independent verifiers in time for applicants to meet this condition. This is a failure in preparation on the part of the UK Government, to rigorously implement the climate policy it created and meet its own targets. We would expect this to be resolved well before the next capacity market auction as non-independent accounting for carbon emissions cannot become normalised or it will risk under-representation of the emissions of the CMUs and the UK overall.

The amendment to allow mothballed plants to bid in the upcoming capacity market auction is concerning where it may increase the potential for recently mothballed coal power plants to come back online and result in a higher proportion of coal within the UK energy mix 2023-24, until the 2024 coal phase-out date begins to have effect. We categorically oppose any move that slows down or reverses the declining use of coal for power in the UK­—including the recent announcement by BEIS to delay the scheduled closure of West Burton coal fired power station. The UK Government states that it is necessary to allow mothballed power stations to participate in the upcoming capacity market auction to increase competition, which it hopes will reduce the cost of electricity generation—particularly when there are greater demands on the grid, such as during the winter months.

If the UK Government invested in renewable technology development and deployment to the same extent that it historically subsidised the fossil fuel industry, competition might realistically be fulfilled by renewable power generators instead. The current challenges are due, to an extent, the policy failure of this government and successive governments to put glib speeches on climate change into action. Moving forward, we urge the UK Government to avert this energy generation challenge recurring with a package of climate-friendly measures, including:

  • the application of a windfall tax on the record profits of some of the largest energy company operations in the UK, and ringfence spending to renewable energy generation and efficiency measures.
  • make mandatory that all new residential developments meet stringent energy efficiency standards to reduce the winter demand for household heating, as well as bills.
  • increase the roll-out of retrospective insulation for Housing Association and Council Housing tenants, reducing the energy bills for those least able to pay them and reducing demand during winter months on the grid.
  • Support the development of community owned, localised smart-grids to reduce reliance on a small group of large centralised energy generators and power stations.

We are concerned that the 2024 coal phase-out date is being used by the UK Government to deflect criticism for its support of using coal up until that date, when what we need is the most rapid phase-out of coal that is possible as the UK careers further from its climate targets. This attitude has been captured in comments made this year by two leading cabinet Ministers, “Net zero is by 2050. We are not at 2050 yet.” – Jacob Rees-Mog, and “Give over. We’re still committed to phase out by Sept 2024.” – Kwasi Kwarteng (in relation to extending the coal powered operations at West Burton).

Finally, as we have commented before in previous consultations, the 2024 phase-out date should be legislated on, to ensure that it happens. As this consultation and other recent moves by this government show, this or any future administration is not currently prevented from taking steps which cast doubt on or undermine that commitment.

Published 28.06.22

Campaign to stop Aberpergwm - the story so far

Discovery

At the end of November 2021, we noticed the licence application for an extension to 'Aberpergwm Colliery' in South Wales on the little-publicised webpage of the Coal Authority (regulator for all coal mining across the UK). This webpage contains a listing of all coal mine licences and licence applications and is a good one to bookmark and check back regularly.

We noticed the application was made in 16/09/2020, so we knew it could be awarded a licence tomorrow or in a year's time. But after checking no other group was campaigning on this already, we sprung into action to ensure licencing wasn't just waved through. In early December we started raising awareness of the licence application over social media, and shared key facts about the coal mine.

Governments deny responsibility

We spoke with Minister Lee Waters of the Welsh Government who insisted the his Government cannot use their powers under the Wales Act 2017 to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion - since the licence's origins dates back before the Wales Act 2017 came into force. Therefore, it was for the UK Government to stop this licence. But the UK Government publicly disagreed in a BBC article on November 4th, arguing that the Welsh Government can apply the Wales Act 2017, and for that reason it would not be appropriate for the UK Government to step in.

In short, both the Welsh and UK Governments pointed the finger of blame at each other and neither would take responsibility nor resolve the issue between them, which actually had the power to intervene.

Mass email action

Coal Action Network launched a mass email campaign on 20/12/2021, encouraging our supporters and the public to contact Ministers Lee Waters of the Welsh Government, and Michael Gove of the UK Government. By the end of December, over 4000 emails had been sent to both Ministers, asking them to agree which government has the power to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion - and to step in to stop the licence.

Both Minister failed to respond to any of the 4000 emails, ignoring the thousands of concerns expressed to them.

Open letter to Welsh & UK Governments

After both Ministers Lee Waters and Michael Gove failed to respond to any of the 4000 emails, and ignore the thousands of concerns expressed to them, Coal Action Network followed with an open letter to them. This letter summarised the main concerns that our supporters and the public wrote to them with, and asked for a response to these concerns.

Again, both Ministers failed to respond and we were getting increasingly concerned their inaction and refusal to communicate would let this licence application slip through and commit us all to continued coal mining at Aberpergwm until 2039.

42m more tonnes of coal gets licenced

On  25th January 2022, the Coal Authority awarded Aberpergwm its coal mine expansion licence, quietly updating its listing of coal mining applications and licences. In response to an email from Coal Action Network, the Coal Authority claimed it could not refuse the licence on any grounds apart from a narrow criteria set by the 1994 Coal Industry Act. If an applicant meets this criteria, the Coal Authority claims it must grant it the licence.

Coal Action Network contacted Richard Buxton Solicitors to find out if there is still any hope of stopping this coal mine, and whether the Welsh Government can still intervene - as the UK Government claims it can.

CAN visits Aberpergwm & Glynneath town

In February 2022, CAN staff visited the site of the Aberpergwm coal mine and met with local people in Glynneath to deepen our understanding of local views and awareness of the looming coal mine expansion. We learned that people living in towns near to the coal mine felt reliant on the coal mine because it brought some business into an area struggling economically and with underfunded services such as public transport links between nearby towns. We have heard similar stories of other towns, forced by a lack of Government investment, to choose between a coal mine with HGV traffic, noise, and disruption, or further job losses and closures.

We also found only low levels of awareness that the coal mine was recently licenced for a massive expansion, indicating that coal mine operator, EnergyBuild Mining Ltd, had not communicated this with local people.

Welsh groups take action

Coal Action Network reached out to Wales-based environmental groups and engaged them on the issue of the impending Aberpergwm coal mine expansion licence. After speaking of 100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane expected to be generated from this expansion, they took action.

Actions have included blockading the site office at the coal mine location on 11th March, and a theatrical noise demonstration outside the Senedd on 17th March 2022 which was attended by Wales Green Party leader Anthony Slaughter and Liberal Democrat party leader, Jane Dodds, who both delivered speeches on the need to prevent this coal mine expansion.

Legal challenge is launched

Richard Buxton Solicitors and Barrister Estelle Dehon (QC) represented Coal Action Network, believing there to be a case to argue:

  1. The Welsh Government can apply the Wales Act 2017 to the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion licence, meaning the licence won't be valid unless the Welsh Government formally approves it
  2. The Coal Authority can consider factors beyond the narrow criteria it claims it's limited to when deciding a licence application.

After 'pre-action letters' to the Welsh Government and UK Coal Authority, Coal Action Network's legal team submitted an application in early April for a judicial review on these grounds.

Crowdfunder for £65,000 legal and court fees

Coal Action Network is a small grassroots organisation, so we need to fundraise £65,000 to challenge the Welsh Government and Coal Authority in a judicial review. These funds are needed to pay for our legal costs, potentially a portion of the other side's if we lose, as well as court fees.

But, if we win, we would set a legal precedent that could make it significantly harder for future coal mining across the UK, potentially laying a 475 year industry to rest and helping to safeguard future generations.

Please share and donate to our CrowdJustice crowd funder.

Application for a full Judicial Review approved

Our legal team has been informed that our legal challenge will be heard by a senior High Court judge in the coming months. Permission to proceed to a full Judicial Review in the High Court indicates we have a solid case and puts us an important step closer to reversing January's decision to licence a 42 million tonne expansion of the Aberpergwm coal mine. Our crack legal team, Richard Buxton Solicitors and Barrister Estelle Dehon QC, will challenge the parts that The UK Coal Authority and the Welsh Government played in this disastrous licence slipping through.

Published: 25.04.2022

Key facts: Aberpergwm coal mine expansion

We'll keep this post up-to-date with the key facts so keep checking back!

Key facts


Planning permission to mine coal until 2039 (this is often subsequently extended).

Tonnage:

42 million tonnes during the life of the extension + 30 million tonnes of "middling" coal to be dumped or put back into the coal mine.

Estimated CO2 and methane emissions:

100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane, a more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2.

Coal operator (mining company):

Energybuild Ltd/Energybuild Mining Ltd.

Type:

Anthracite

Claimed uses:

2022: According to Energybuild Ltd, 60% of the coal goes to steelworks, 20% domestic heating (80% overall)
2023: Energybuild Ltd thinks this could drop to an overall 70% of the coal going to steelworks and domestic heating.

The planning application said power stations and steel works. With Aberthaw power station closed, Energybuild now talks of Pulverised injection for steelmaking, household heating, cement, and water filtration.

County Council Local Planning Authority:

Neath Port Talbot

Address:

Glynneath, Neath, SA11 5AJ

Physical size:

Because this is an underground mine, much of the excavation would be invisible but very real, as communities victim to flooding mine shafts have experienced. The underground tunnelling has permission to extend to 2.3km squared, taking you roughly half an hour to walk from one side of the tunnels to the other. And this doesn’t factor in the vertical shafts, sending offshoots that go beneath the River Dulais.

Published: 22/04/2022

CAN instructs Barristers to take Welsh Government and the Coal Authority to task over Aberpergwm colliery extension.

Update

Check out what else we're doing now to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion

See our first letter and our second letter 'before action' from lawyers Richard Buxton Solicitors challenging the decisions made around the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion licence.


 

Under direction by grassroots campaign organisation, Coal Action Network, Barrister Estelle Dehon has sent a letter-before-action to the Welsh Government and the Coal Authority on the grounds that:

  1. Welsh Ministers can apply the Wales Act 2017 to the Aberpergwm coal mine extension licence - requiring approval from Welsh Ministers before the licence becomes valid for coal mining within Wales.
  2. Coal Authority misinterprets its own powers. It can consider wider factors which could include climate change and can still withdraw the licence for the Aberpergwm colliery extension prior to it being ‘granted’ (it is currently only ‘offered’).

Our Barrister thinks they got it wrong.

Our Barrister’s pre-action letter convincingly puts the power to stop the Aberpergwm colliery extension licence firmly in the hands of Welsh Government Ministers. Now it is up to those Ministers to take their rhetoric and put it into swift, decisive action to stop this climate calamity whilst there is still the opportunity to do so. Our pre-action letter also identifies why The Coal Authority, hosted by BEIS of the UK Government, isn’t bound by the narrow set of criteria it claims to be, and could, for instance, site climate change as a reason to withdraw this licence and reject future coal mining licence applications, becoming an ally to our climate commitments rather than an undermining force.

We tried knocking on their doors before putting a letter through their letterboxes…

Coal Action Network tried to avoid legal action, with supporters sending over 4000 emails to Lee Waters of the Welsh Government and Michael Gove of the UK Government, urging them to come to work together and arrive at a common understanding as to which could intervene on the pending licence to extend the Aberpergwm colliery—and then take that action to stop the licence before it’s granted. However, along with our open letter, Ministers ignored thousands of concerned members of the public. As Ministers refuse to respond to the public’s and civil society’s concerns, we must resort to this legal action.

We hope they see sense.

We hope that the Welsh Government and The Coal Authority act swiftly to stop this coal mine, in accordance with the legal grounds identified within the pre-action letter. This may avoid the need for a judicial review. But we cannot allow it to go unchallenged, that every institution and individual involved has shrugged off the responsibility for committing us to the extraction of 70 million tonnes of coal, selling 40 million tonnes of coal, and the release of 1.17 million tonnes of methane and c.100 million tonnes of CO2. This is a terrible climate injustice, it must be stopped, and those responsible must be held to account. The time to draw a line in the sand is now. No new coal mining for any purpose. And the IEA agrees with us (p103).

It's not just about the Aberpergwm colliery extension. This needs to end.

If we must resort to a judicial review to prevent this coal mine, we intend to crowd-fund it and we hope you’ll share it widely. As well as stopping this coal mine extension, a successful legal challenge will dissuade the other coal companies which have conditional licences from the Coal Authority to attempt new coal mines. We would significantly raise the bar against new coal mines.

Published: 09/02/22

Licenced: the Aberpergwm coal mine extension

Update

Check out what we're doing now to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion.

On 25th January 2022...

...Whilst the Welsh and UK Governments continued to argue over which could stop it, The Coal Authority approved the full licence for an underground coal mine extension to Energybuild Ltd. The company can now mine a further 40 MILLION TONNES of coal until 2039, emitting an est. 100 MILLION TONNES of CO2 and up to 1.17 MILLION TONNES of methane emissions.

This is exactly what we warned would happen, but it’s not over yet.

We, at Coal Action Network, are taking action against this climate trashing project and want you to join in. This is a rapidly evolving issue, and we will post specific actions you can get involved with here on our website, as well as our social media platforms. Watch this space.

Campaign plans

We will:

  • Take legal advice on how to challenge legality of this coal mine – with a view to prevent potential coal mines in the future, particularly as mining companies will be watching this case closely, as several other coal companies are holding conditional licences already.
  • Consider mass participation digital and creative actions.
  • Counter the growing greenwash emanating from Energybuild Ltd.
  • Be direct and targeted in exposing backtracking from politicians on their positions against coal mining.
  • Investigate concerns raised that there may be no guarantees Energybuild Ltd, or a new company that buys the mine, will restore the area after mining ceases.

Why must we stop this coal mine?

  1. The UK is already off-course to meeting its Paris Agreement climate commitments. Waving through 100 million tonnes of CO2 endangers not just the UK’s decarbonisation progress, but also the European countries that it will be exported to.
  2. Currently, around half of the coal mined in Aberpergwm is sold to TATA’s Port Talbot Steelworks—the 2nd biggest single-site source of CO2 in the UK, and that’s largely down to the coal used to make the steel. The UK Government set a target for the UK steel industry to decarbonise by 2035, to have any hope of meeting its climate commitments… that’s 4 years before this coal mine is due to close. The problem is, if Energybuild Ltd would make coal more widely and cheaply available, so steel companies will keep using it rather than investing in the infrastructure to use alternatives to coal. This would create a delay to the decarbonisation of the steel industry that we cannot afford.
  3. Other mining companies will be watching this closely; if the Aberpergwm coal mine extension goes ahead, it could spark a disastrous new wave of coal mining applications.
  4. This is the first test of the Welsh Government’s tough stance on coal in Wales. If the Welsh Government are seen to support this coal mine, it will undermine the hard-won progress to make coal mining untenable at the highest political level within Wales.

Published: 03/02/2022 updated 08/02/2022

An open letter to stop the Aberpergwm coal extension

Update

The Coal Authority has issued the Aberpergwm coal mine with a licence to mine an extra 42 million tonnes of coal, ignoring the est.100 million tonnes of CO2 this will generate and jeopardise the UK's and Wales' ability to meet their climate commitments. Check out what we're doing now to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion.

Dear Ministers Lee Waters and Michael Gove,

Combined, both of you have received nearly 4000 emails from people who are dismayed by the news that the deep coal mine operated by EnergyBuild Ltd in Aberpergwm may imminently have the licence to extend it deconditionalised by The Coal Authority regulator. The people we have spoken with are shocked that the UK is embarking on a new commitment to mine up to 40 million tonnes of coal until 2039, emitting around 100 million tonnes of CO2—as well as methane—into our atmosphere. Common questions we heard included “how can this happen just after COP26?”, “shouldn’t this decision be made by Wales?”, and “why don’t these Ministers seem to know who can stop this?”.

Will you answer their questions and respond to their concerns?

Our recommendations:

In the short term, it is critical that Ministers from both the Welsh and UK Governments work together to overcome the political impasse reported by the BBC and The Guardian, and block this coal mine. There are several routes to achieve this. Inaction on this coal mine extension would have unacceptable consequences for the UK’s climate change emissions, and international leadership on phasing down coal.

For the longer term, the UK Government must end the recurring embarrassment of coal mines progressing through a planning system that does not support the its climate commitments. Applications for new coal mines in West Cumbria and near Druridge Bay, as well as a coal mine extension at Nant Helen in Wales, all required Ministers to step in the last-minute. This pattern shows that the planning process needs updating.

We recommend that Minister Michael Gove therefore issues a policy statement that rules out planning permission for all new and extended coal mining across the UK. This be irrespective of the type of coal or proposed end use. The policy statement would send a clear signal domestically and internationally that the UK is serious about leading the global phase-down of coal, and accelerating the decarbonisation of energy and steel production, the latter of which currently drives 11% of climate change emissions.

An invitation to consign coal to history

We invite Minsters from the Welsh and UK Governments to reach out to Coal Action Network and consign new coal mining and extensions to history. Coal Action Network has operated as a grassroots group since 2008 to support local communities across England, Scotland, and Wales to oppose nearby coal mining and associated impacts. As one local community member, after successfully opposing a nearby opencast coal proposal in December 2020, said:

“Coal is our heritage, but it cannot be a part of our future”

Yours sincerely,

Supporters, and the team at Coal Action Network

Published 29.12.2021

Committing to 100 million tonnes of CO2 over 18 years before the dust settles on COP26 just 280 miles away

Update

The Coal Authority has issued the Aberpergwm coal mine with a licence to mine an extra 42 million tonnes of coal, ignoring the est.100 million tonnes of CO2 this will generate and jeopardise the UK's and Wales' ability to meet their climate commitments. Check out what we're doing now to stop the Aberpergwm coal mine expansion.

The quick read:

Currently, the Welsh Government and the UK’s Government Ministry of BEIS are arguing over which has the legal power to cancel the impending licence for a coal mine extension in Aberpergwm, south Wales. EnergyBuild Ltd, the coal operator, is on the brink of getting a licence to extend an existing deep coal mine to extract a further 40 million tonnes of coal, emitting around 100 million tonnes of CO2 and methane, until 2039. The licence could be obtained any day, and work begin shortly thereafter (we’ve illustrated the main legal steps a coal mine takes between application and diggers on the land). This is a very live issue.

Demand Ministers block this coal mine extension now.

Squabbling ministers

The governments of Wales and the UK both believe that the other has the power to stop the coal mine extension from going ahead. In the meantime, and in the shadow of the recent COP26 in Glasgow, a licence to extract a further 40 million tonnes of coal could slip through any day. The estimated 100 million tonnes of CO2 and methane this would emit over the next 18 years, would discredit the much-boasted 2050 Net-Zero commitment, Boris Johnson’s recent statement in the press against new coal, and the Welsh Ministerial statement against coal in March 2021. The signal this may send to other world leaders, that they can make commitments then ignore them, is hard to quantify but may be even more significant. Ministers Lee Waters of the Welsh Government, and Michael Gove of the UK Government, need to come together to stop this coal mine and make good on their respective governments' climate commitments.

Local and global-local consequences

The distance between the coal mine and the nearest residence in Aberpergwm is just 330 metres. Although this is a deep coal mine rather than opencast, this proximity can still be associated with impacts from coal dust from coal stockpiles stored above ground, noise, HGV movements, and light pollution. Future impacts of the underground working are also uncertain with increasingly extreme weather events associated with climate change.

For people living in many parts of the Global South, on flood planes, or near sea-level, climate change is not an abstract threat for future generations – it's impacts are life and death, and are experienced now and locally to them. The line between who we think of as ‘local communities’ is beginning to blur as the impacts are increasingly experienced beyond the site of operations. The economic and health impacts of the coal mine extension going ahead or closing will be immediate, direct, and tangible on the residents in Aberpergwm. The impacts of the CO2 and methane from this coal mine will be delayed, indirect, and, although modelling tools attempt to quantify it, fairly intangible on communities threatened now by climate change. However, the consequences are profound for both groups, and must be considered.

Recycling the greenwash doesn’t make it more true

Cutting through the greenwash, a significant portion of the coal will be burned at steelworks releasing huge amounts of CO2 and other pollutants, jeopardising the rapid decarbonisation required of the global steel industry and other industries which are reliant on coal.

Energybuild Ltd

A visit to Companies House online will reveal a complicated operating structure of many small companies with similar names and shared registered addresses associated with Energybuild Ltd, the coal operator in Aberpergwm. The company itself has negligible assets, so the possibility of recovering funds if the company suddenly folded with liabilities is limited. The situation with its holding company, Energybuild Resources Ltd is also concerning, with net liabilities of £2.7 million and assets valued at £950 thousand as of the end of 2019 – meaning that if the company were to fold, around 65% of those liabilities may not be fulfilled, including restoration works.

Heritage in coal

Wales played a major role in mining the coal that powered the UK through an industrial revolution. Coal is a central part of a proud heritage in many communities throughout Wales, and for a few remaining areas, coal mining is still the major industry.

The closure of many coal mines under the Thatcher Government put thousands out of work, generating bitterness and deprivation that continues to this day. Much of this hardship could have been avoided if coal mining had been phased out and replaced by reinvesting some of the wealth that mining generated back into the communities that toiled to extract it.

Coal or unemployment?

Local shops and pubs, in particular, in recent press coverage have come out in support of a licence for the coal mine extension, highlighting their reliance on the custom of coal miners that work there. But without the support for creating alternative jobs that’s been absent so far, these businesses will be in the same position when the coal mine does eventually close.

Will the UK Government learn from its past mistakes in coal, and make good on its promise to ‘level up’ the UK with an approach that includes investment in infrastructure, retraining in desirable and viable jobs, and financial support for small and medium sized enterprises, particularly cooperative and social-interest companies that build and reinvest in their communities? Only when the UK and Welsh governments step up will communities in Aberpergwm have a genuine choice on whether to tolerate a coal mine nearby for another 18 years.

Coal is our collective heritage, but it cannot be our future

The Aberpergwm extension may represent the final gasps of an industry we owe much to but must move beyond. As one tenacious community member fighting a coal mine near Newcastle put it, "coal is our collective heritage, but it cannot be our future".

 

Following almost 4000 emails, we've followed up with an open letter to Ministers Lee Waters and Michael Gove.

Overview of the process to open a coal mine in the UK

Download in PDF

This is an illustrated step-by-step guide as to how a company gets the legal stuff they need in place before they can start a new coal mine, or extend an existing one. The information herein is a very simplified outline of the main steps to, a much deeper reading is recommended as understanding this process will highlight what the opportunities are for avoiding any future coal mining applications slipping through or reaching the stage of a resource-demanding public inquiry, like the West Cumbria coal mine application recently has.