STOP PRESS: Public inquiry called into West Cumbria coal mine!

In a surprise decision, the West Cumbria coal mine application is going to a public inquiry called by Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State), announced late yesterday (11.03.2021). Climate change will never be a local issue.

Why now?

  1. ‘Public controversy’ (this is literally your efforts!).
  2. The Sixth carbon budget was released in December—this coal mine alone would exceed the sub-allocation for active and old mines. You've since made it impossible for the Council and government to ignore that.
  3. Legal challenges (last week West Cumbria Mining Ltd applied for a Judicial Review of the Council’s decision to reconsider the application – a decision that again you helped make happen).

What now?

A public inquiry is a formal process started by a Minister (Robert Jenrick in this case) and run by The Planning Inspectorate where the facts of the case are examined more closely than in a council hearing. We now have another opportunity to expose the falsehoods within justifications for the West Cumbria coal mine and highlight the reasons it must never go ahead. These include:

  1. Over 85% of the mined coal would be exported, maybe more with high sulphur concentrations that are too much for the British steel industry – how does ‘domestic demand’ justify that?
  2. There’s nothing ‘neutral’ in new coal – it’s time to put that industry myth to bed.
  3. Jobs will be limited in time and number, and lower paid compared to what’s possible with investment in skilled green jobs.
  4. Approving new coal mines is incompatible with UK’s decarbonisation targets – and the Climate Change Committee has our backs on that.
  5. Approving a new coal mine during the same year the UK hosts the G7 and the COP26 summits, and as co-hosts the Powering Past Coal Alliance would signal to other countries they can pay lip-service to their climate change commitments.

As a grassroots supporter group, Coal Action Network will do what we always do, and that’s to fight for front-line communities to get their knowledge and voices heard in spaces like this public inquiry. We’ll keep you updated—but follow-us on Twitter if you use it, we'd like to share things with you there.

Tonight, the end of an 800-year era for coal exports from the North East of England

Tonight, 18th February 2021, marks the final shipment of coal mined from the North East of England. This marks a momentous victory for the years of anti-coal action, most recently the successfully defeated open cast coal mine application in Dewley Hill, near Newcastle.

The heritage of coal exports from the North East of England goes back to the 13th Century, but it has increasingly become a legacy in decline and with it, levels of deprivation that are also seen in other former-coalfield regions of the UK. The government must do more to ensure there is a just transition from jobs in coal and fossil fuels, to jobs in a genuinely green economy.

Jude Campbell, who campaigned against an application for a new coal mine in Dewley Hill from 2019-2021, says “As a former union rep the prospect of redundancy… does not sit easily with me. However, [coal is] a declining industry and it is grossly irresponsible to promise these workers employment in this industry ad infinitum when coal is on the way out in favour of green technologies”.

So today, at the end of an era, would be an apt landmark for government to ‘level up’ by renewing and acting on their commitment to materially support a sustainable economy in the North East of England.

With the UK’s climate commitments (not least to phase out coal-fired power generation by 2024/5) and the declining contribution of coal to the national grid, this day was inevitable – and critical if the UK is serious about taking action on climate change. Coal remains the single largest emitter of CO2 in the world, out-stripping oil and gas. Without a rapid and drastic reduction in the use of coal, catastrophic climate change is certain.

Tonight, coal from Durham open cast coal mine, operated by Hargreaves, will leave the UK on a ship from Longwave Port of Tyne, most likely to be burned in a power station to produce electricity. This coal mine ceased actively extracting coal in 2020. Now Hargreaves is merely transporting mined coal out of the mine - the last open cast coal mine to do so in the North East after Bradley open cast coal mine in County Durham, operated by Banks’ Group, had its application for extension rejected and closed in August 2020.

“Coal is a proud part of our history in the North East, but it is not our future” – Jos, Newcastle.

Published: 18.02.2021

Confirmed: Newcastle City Council set to decide fate of proposed new opencast coal mine at Dewley Hill

Stop press: the Council’s own Planning Officer’s report recommends rejecting the opencast coal mine as it “would not be environmentally acceptable”

On the 18th December 2020, Newcastle City Council decides whether to protect 250 acres of greenbelt land or allow a controversial opencast coal mine on the north-eastern edge of Newcastle in an online hearing. Banks Group applied in 2019 for a new opencast mine to extract 800,000 tonnes of thermal coal. 451 residents of Newcastle have since signed letters to their Councillors asking them to vote against this application. The Council’s own Planning Officer’s report concludes the proposed coal mine “would not be environmentally acceptable”, recommending councillors to reject the application as well.

Professor Paul Ekins O.B.E., a leading resource enconomist at UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources,

What would the impacts be on the local environment and communities?

The local Defend Dewley Hill campaign, has fought the proposed opencast mine since 2019 when Banks Group proposed to swallow 250 acres of Newcastle’s green belt land. Waterways, mature trees, hedgerows, wildlife, top soil, and public rights of way would be torn up if this destructive open cast mine were permitted.

Northumberland Wildlife Trust is concerned that an opencast mine would harm farmland birds such as skylark, lapwing, and yellowhammer, with the Chief Executive stating “We are totally against coal extraction as a trust”. There may also be risk to Dewley and Ouse burns (waterways) that supply Newcastle residents’ water from the open cast mine. The coal that would be extracted from this open cast mine is intended either to burned in power stations or to industry, in the UK or abroad. If used in the UK, the coal extracted could endanger the Government’s commitment to have net zero emissions by 2050.

Jude Campbell from Defend Dewley Hill said, “This application offers no benefit to the local community. Banks Group claims the opencast coal mine would create 50 new jobs at Dewley Hill but these are not new jobs for local people, simply continued employment for their existing workforce. As a former union rep the prospect of redundancy for Banks employees does not sit easily with me. However, Banks are promoting an unsustainable business model in a declining industry and it is grossly irresponsible to promise these workers employment in this industry ad infinitum when coal is on the way out in favour of green technologies. Banks Group have their own renewables division, they should be taking advantage of green technology grants whilst retaining and retraining employees.”

Whether the coal is used in the UK or abroad, and whether it is used in power stations or other industries, Professor Paul Ekins O.B.E., a leading resource enconomist at UCL Institute of Sustainable Resources, explains in a letter to Newcastle Council, “an increase in the supply of a commodity such as coal will reduce the price of the commodity, leading to increased demand, and therefore increased emissions”, and discourage industries investing in greener alternatives.

You can virtually attend the planning committee hearing, which starts at 0930 Friday 18.12.20 via www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiXPxStycTQ&feature=youtu.be