New Cumbrian coking coal mine – an asset or a liability?

West Cumbria Mining have submitted a planning application to mine coking coal from Woodhouse Colliery Whitehaven. The mine would produce more than 2.4 million tonnes of coal a year, for 50 years.

Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole are opposing the application on the grounds that it is too close to the nuclear infrastructure at Sellafield. Their website is here.

If you want to object to this mine there is only a short period of time available. Submissions must reach the council by the 10th July.

“There are many reasons to keep Cumbrian coal in the hole not least because the plan is ludicrously close to Sellafield, the proposed mining of coal seams would extend to within 5 miles of Sellafield and even closer to the proposed Moorside site. We have just five weeks to send in objections to Cumbria County Council.”

There is a sample letter of objection on the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole website.

West Cumbria Mining plan to export much of the coal via railways to ports for export (“to the overseas markets of Europe or Asia”) and the UK’s three main steelworks.

The steel works in the UK provide vital jobs in the three remaining large steelworks and produce a raw material used in the production of wind turbines, buildings and many other everyday things. In 2015 the UK imported 4.75 million tonnes of coking coal mainly from the USA (44%) and Russia (27%). 72,000 tonnes of coking coal was produced from UK mines, although there are currently no mines exclusively producing coking coal.

The proposed mine would be predominantly for export, adding to global transport of commodities, rather than reducing it by displacing UK imports.

The coal is of higher quality than that predominantly burnt in coal power stations, but it is possible that this coal will be burnt in the power stations in the UK.

The business is based in Sussex. West Cumbria Mining is headed by coal mining engineer Mark Kirkbride, and has secured £14.7m in private equity backing from EMR Capital Resources.

Starting a new coal mine, close to a major nuclear power station to produce a raw material for overseas steel manufacturing seems like a illogical thing to do.

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