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Help us to stop the Whitehaven coal mine proposal by writing to your MP

Updated. The decision to stop or allow the proposed 61.4 million tonne coal mine has been delayed or a second time. It is now due on or before the 8th November. (Following a first delay when the Government had said the 17th August.) We are keen to apply as much pressure to stop the mine as possible. For why this mine cannot be allowed to go ahead, see our blog post Key facts: Whitehaven coal mine.

The public inquiry into the application closed nearly a year ago (September 2021). Now we’re contending with the invasion of Ukraine, a looming energy crisis, and the closure of Port Talbot steelworks if it doesn’t receive £1.5 billion in subsidies from the government to pay for new equipment to remove its dependence on coal. Since the Cabinet reshuffle in July there is a new Minister, Greg Clark responsible for this decision.

Write to your MP now to ask that they make Greg Clark, the Secretary of State responsible for the decision, aware of your concerns.

Find out who is the MP for your area.

Below are some suggestions of points to include, please re-write them yourself and or change their order. Unique letters make a much bigger difference than reproducing the same one.

Some things to consider in your letter to your MP:

1) The only significant domestic demand for Whitehaven’s coal would be Port Talbot Steelworks (at most, 13% of the coal produced could be consumed in the UK at full production). Port Talbot Steelworks has announced it will either cut out coal from its steelworks with a £1.5 billion government subsidy – or close. Either way, close to 100% of Whitehaven coal would be exported where it doesn’t get included in UK emissions statistics, but does worsen everyone’s climate risk.

2) The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is a good reason to lead the way in reducing our industries’ dependence on fossil fuels, starting with Port Talbot Steelworks, and embrace the massive potential for renewable energy across the UK. Much can be done just by increasing efficiencies, see our report on Coal in steel.

3) Chris McDonald of the Materials Processing Institute has said that the Whitehaven mine would not displace a single tonne of Russian coking coal from the UK. The industry’s trade association—UK Steel - has confirmed that no Russian coal is used in UK steelworks any more; these plants have already found alternative sources.

4) The UK holds the COP (climate summit) presidency until the end of 2022, the UK needs to set an example by keeping all fossil fuels in the ground. Lord Deben, of the Climate Change Committee, said in June 2022 "As far as the coal mine in Cumbria is concerned, let's be absolutely clear, it is absolutely indefensible".

5) The cost of living crisis means that we need to invest in technology and industries which can offer sustainable, well paid, long-term employment, building a greener country—rather than investing in a declining industry at a coal mine with an uncertain future. The Local Government Association, says there is potential for over 6000 green jobs in Cumbria this decade of which 10% of these could be in Copeland, where the Whitehaven coal mine would be.

You can also include reasons against this coal mine which are not on this list, but important to you. Remember it would produce coal for steel making, rather than for coal power stations. Please remember to include a full name and address.

Particularly important Ministers to contact are: Alok Sharma, Reading West; Simon Clarke, Middlesborough South and East Cleveland; Kwasi Kwarteng, Spelthorne; Greg Hands, Chelsea and Fulham; Paul Scully, Sutton & Cheam; Marcus Jones, Nuneaton; Lia Nici, Great Grimsby; Steve Double, St Austell and Newquay; and Alan Mak, Havant, Hampshire. However, only the MP for the area that you live will correspond with you on this issue.

If they haven't already you could ask your MP to sign the Early Day Motion titled, “Planned coalmine in Whitehaven, Cumbria”. 51 MPs have signed so far.  Is yours one of them? Normally only opposition party MPs sign EDMs.

 

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

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

COAL & THE UK

In the midst of the climate crisis, the UK still mines and imports coal. The coal is used for steel and cement production, as well as in power stations. Mining companies are currently applying for more underground coal mine applications and expansions, which we are fighting - such as the Aberpergwm coal mine extension and the Lochinvar proposal. Read our summary on coal during 2021.

FRONTLINE STRUGGLES & CAMPAIGNS

Aberpergwm coal mine expansion

Coal Action Network is actively campaigning to stop an expansion to the existing Aberpergwm deep coal mine in South Wales to extract a further 42 million tonnes of coal, emitting around 100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane, until…

Coal & Steel

We are facing a climate emergency. This reality is underlined every day by extreme weather and ‘natural disasters’. The steel industry produces 11% of the annual CO2 emitted globally, contributing significantly to climate change. This is largely due to the reliance on coking coal in…

West Cumbria mine

We are living on the brink of climate catastrophe as well as many collapsing local ecosystems around the UK. Allowing this new coal mine now would cost the UK in terms of its environment, publicly funded infrastructure, and climate leadership, with any tax income in…

ACTIONS & NEWS

Write to your MP to stop the Whitehaven coal mine proposal

The decision to stop or allow the proposed 61.4 million tonne coal mine has been delayed. We are keen to apply as much pressure to stop the mine as possible. Please join us in writing to your MP now to ask that they do everything in their power to stop the mine.

Lochinvar proposal – a licence to harm

New Age Exploration Ltd propose to extract up to 33.7 million tonnes of coking coal for steelworks in the UK and beyond between 2025 and 2051 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…

Key facts: Aberpergwm coal mine expansion

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.
Around 100 million tonnes of CO2 and up to 1.17 million tonnes of methane could be emitted during…

Coal round up February 2022

Update on coal extraction and use in the UK. The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There are no new opencast mines proposed; only one proposed opencast coal extension and one existing opencast extraction site…

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

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…

Licenced: the Aberpergwm coal mine extension

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…

An open letter to stop the Aberpergwm coal extension

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…

Aberpergwm coal extension

Energy Build ltd are on the cusp of getting their Aberpergwm coal mine extension licence. The licence could be obtained any day, and work begin shortly thereafter. Coal is our collective heritage, but it cannot be our future…

52 people tragically killed in mining explosion in Kuzbass region of Russia

We are deeply saddened to hear that yesterday (25th November 2021) a suspected methane explosion killed 52 people, including 6 rescuers, at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine. The underground mine lies close to the town of Gramoteino, in the heavily mined Kuzbass coal field.

Johnson’s first comment on proposed Cumbrian coal mine

On the first day of the Conference of Parties Climate summit (COP26) in Glasgow Boris Johnson for the first time has said that he is not in favour of a new coal mine in the UK. Tommy Greene explains what happened in an article on Left Foot Forward.

CONNECT WITH US

Coal round up February 2022

The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There are no new opencast mines proposed; only one proposed opencast coal extension and one existing opencast extraction site. However there are three new underground coal mine applications or extensions proposed and there was an increase in coal use in power stations between 2020 and 2021.

Coal use in power stations

As you can see from the image above coal use in power stations has dropped dramatically since 2012, when 43% of electricity in the UK grid was produced from coal combustion, to just 1.72% in 2020.

Coal use hit a record low in 2020 supplying 253 TWh to the grid, and increased slightly the following year to 267 TWh, as the economy ramped back up from covid-19. (The data for 2022 is only for the first fortnight of the year). Thanks to MyGridGB for this data.

Underground mining

There are presently three applications for new/ extended underground coal mines.

Proposed underground mines

Aberpergwm Colliery (Energybuild Ltd) in Neath port Talbot had planning permission for a 40+ million tonne underground (anthracite) coal mine approved in 2018. The Coal Authority offered the coal company, a license to extract coal in January 2022. Coal Action Network are currently considering legal action against the Coal Authority and Welsh Government for failing to stop the mine being licenced.

Lochinvar (Australian New Age Explorations) are applying for licences for an underground coking coal mine at Lochinvar in three sections, on the Scottish border. If constructed the company hopes to be producing coal until 2044. The first of the three areas would supply an average 1.4 million tonnes of coal each year.

Woodhouse Colliery proposed by West Cumbria Mining had its proposal for a new 1.78 million tonne per year underground coking coal mine off Whitehaven, Cumbria called in by the Secretary of State in 2021. The Planning Inspectorate ran a Public Inquiry in September 2021 and the report is expected to be given to the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove imminently.

Opencast coal extraction

There is currently an application to extend a previously operated mine at Glan Lash in Camarthanshire by Bryn Bach Coal.

The last existing opencast coal mine in the UK is Ffos-y-fran, operated by Merthyr (South Wales) Ltd in Merthyr Tydfil, it is widely reported to be due to close in October 2022.

UK steel producers

There are four major UK steel producers, half are using coking coal and produce much higher emissions that the two which recycle scrap steel.

Tata Steel
Port Talbot steel works, in Neath Port Talbot, Wales, is the second biggest UK single site emitter of carbon dioxide.[1] The plant uses coking coal to make steel in blast furnaces.

British Steel
Currently British steel’s Scunthorpe plant can use a maximum of 25% to 30% recycled content using Basic Oxygen Steel making. It currently uses coking coal.

Liberty

Liberty Steel, which has sites in Newport and in Tredegar, has said it aims to become a carbon-neutral steel producer by 2030. The site currently uses Electric Arc Furnaces and recycles scrap metal so does not use coking coal.

Celsa

Celsa’s Cardiff steelworks uses 100% recycled scrap steel in its products and so does not need coking coal.

For more details see our report Coal in Steel.

Power station closures

Ratcliffe on Soar power was given a contract to supply 411 MW to the grid from coal in 2022/23 at a Capacity Market auction in Feb 2022. Ratcliffe's owner Uniper plans to turn the power station into an incinerator for household waste and produce heat and electricity operational by 2026. It has secured planning permission.

Drax power station is supposed to have stopped burning coal this year. However it has offered that it could stay online until 2024 to the UK government.

EDF are closing their West Burton coal power station in September 2022.

Kilroot coal and oil power station in Northern Ireland is going to be converted to gas. It has been announced that Kilroot will stop consuming coal in September 2023.

Coal phase-out in the UK is expected by October 2024. Given that coal consumption in power stations is very low in the summer, the last generation could be April 2024.

Want to help in the fight against coal?

Reference

[1] The Coal Authority, Production and Manpower returns for three month period January to March 2020 and other sources.

Queries and media contact: info @ coalaction . org .uk (without spaces)

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.

52 people tragically killed in mining explosion in Kemerovo region of Russia

We are deeply saddened to hear that yesterday (25th November 2021) a suspected methane explosion killed 52 people, including 6 rescuers, at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine. The underground mine lies close to the town of Gramoteino, in the heavily mined Kuzbass coal field.

The company operating this mine - SDS – Ugol - is one of Russia’s three biggest coal producers, it exports coal to Europe, including to British power stations. The Kuzbass region where this mine is located is the main area in Russia for export to Europe.

This is sadly not the first accident at this mine, an earlier methane blast in 2004 which killed 13 people and in 1981 another explosion killed five people. Coal mining releases methane which is poisonous, highly flammable and a strong contributor to green house gas emissions.

In the Kuzbass there are large opencast coal mines as well as many underground mines. There is little other work other than coal mining and associated industries in the area, but the consequences of mining coal are numerous. In addition to industrial accidents they include – water pollution, dust from mining and waste tips, higher incidences of cancers; waste tips blotting the landscape and contributing to smog; loss of wilderness areas for hunting, fishing and wildlife; and the destruction of entire villages to enable mine expansion. For more info see our 2018 report, Slow Death in Siberia.

Coal Action Network and Russian environmental group Ecodefense met with HSBC in 2016. HSBC told us that in order for them to consider ending investments in a coal company there needs to have been an accident killing at least 5 people. HSBC are you financing SDS-UGOL?

This tragic loss of life in Russia is strongly linked to the UK and other European nations which consume coal from the Kuzbass. While the UK plans to phase-out coal power in 2024, some of the coal remaining in British stockpiles at power stations could well have been mined at Listvyazhnaya.

Our thoughts are with the bereaved families and the entire community surrounding this mine.

Sources include: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/nov/25/dozens-trapped-underground-in-siberia-after-fatal-coalmine-fire, https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20211125-six-dead-dozens-missing-after-siberia-coal-mine-accident and https://hcsds.ru/en/holding/business-model/sds-ugol