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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

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.

Exactly what Boris Johnson said can be heard here: https://twitter.com/NiranjanAjit/status/1455107998481850371

Johnson has since reiterated the statement that he doesn't want more coal mines but fails to acknowledge that as the Prime Minister he can stop it happening, while putting too much faith in carbon capture and storage to enable oil and gas projects in the UK.

Tommy Greene tells the story in Left Foot Forward.

"Campaigners seize on Boris Johnson’s opening day coal comments at COP26

'A new coal mine in Cumbria would result in approximately an additional 9 million tonnes of carbon emissions being released every year to 2049 and so is unacceptable'.

Coal mine

Environmental groups have urged Boris Johnson to show he is serious about climate change by axing plans for a new coal mine in west Cumbria, after he appeared to signal opposition to the scheme.

The use of coal in energy production and industrial processes has long been set to occupy one of the highest-priority positions on the agenda at the Cop26 UN climate talks, billed as ‘last chance saloon’ to keep global warming within the relatively-manageable levels of 1.5C that scientists forecast.

Yet, critics say, the UK government’s attempts to facilitate ambitious new international pacts around fossil fuel divestment have been complicated by the protracted battle over what would be the UK’s first new deep coal mine in more than 30 years near Whitehaven, along the Cumbrian coast.

Its hopes of positioning itself as a climate leader internationally have also been undermined by the bitter row that has emerged from the mining application, which has placed ‘Red Wall’ Tory MPs at odds with some of the government’s leading ministers and chief climate scientists.

After having waved through the plans – citing the importance of ‘local’ concerns – Boris Johnson’s administration was pushed into calling a public inquiry earlier this year, following weeks of pressure from civil society and from quarters within his own government.

He has also infuriated former mining communities when he claimed during the summer that pit closures under Margaret Thatcher had given the UK a “big early start” in the fight against climate change.

But, this morning, the UK Prime Minister for the first time indicated that he was personally opposed to the proposals to extract around 2.7 million tonnes of metallurgical (or coking) coal from underneath the Irish seabed each year, in a project that could run until 2049.

“I’m not in favour of more coal,” he told The BBC. “But it is not a decision for me, it is a decision for the planning authorities.”

The planning inspector presiding over the Cumbrian application is due to publish his recommendations coming out of the four-week-long inquiry that was eventually held into the proposed scheme in September.

But, contrary to Johnson’s suggestion, the final decision rests with Whitehall and will be handed down by the minister for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove.

Consequently, environmental organisations campaigning against the controversial project in west Cumbria have sought to hold Johnson’s feet to the fire in light of the comments.

Anne Harris, from the Coal Action Network, told Left Foot Forward such a move would be key to avoiding further international embarrassment for the UK and would “indicate the government is serious about tackling climate change.”

She said: “A new coal mine in Cumbria would result in approximately an additional 9 million tonnes of carbon emissions being released every year to 2049 and so is unacceptable.

“Boris Johnson’s comment today that the proposed Cumbrian coking coal mine shouldn’t go ahead is a really positive step. However, the Prime Minister can stop this application from going ahead by requiring that all Government departments implement their own Government’s Net Zero commitment in all decisions, which is a logical step.

“It would indicate the government is serious about tackling climate change. For example, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities could include Net-Zero as the threshold for any new planning consideration in Michael Gove’s upcoming Planning Bill.

“That would avoid the next coal mine application embarrassment for the government.”

Friends of the Earth, meanwhile, stressed that an exemption could not be made for coal with industrial end use after a series of proposals to extract thermal coal for UK power stations were defeated last year. It is thought that around 15% of the coal dug up by West Cumbria Mining Ltd (WCM) would go towards domestic steelmaking, with the remainder to be exported.

“Actions speak louder than words,” campaigner Tony Bosworth told Left Foot Forward.

“If Boris Johnson is not in favour of more coal, why did it take his government so long to ‘call in’ planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria?

“The prime minister’s push for an early end to coal must cover industrial uses too, not just power generation. The climate doesn’t differentiate between the two.”

He also blasted Johnson for suggesting the upcoming decision simply lay with local bodies or planning authorities – a position that saw the government threatened with legal action earlier this year.

He said: “It’s not local planning authorities who will decide if the Cumbria coal mine is built, as Boris Johnson appears to believe.

“The final decision will rest with his government, based on the evidence presented at the recent public inquiry, which overwhelmingly showed permission should be refused.”

WCM has been contacted for comment.

Tommy Greene is a freelance journalist" [copied from an article on Left Foot Forward]

Final day of public inquiry into proposed Cumbrian coking coal mine

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) has been instrumental in the battle against a proposed 2.78 million tonne a year coking coal mine, proposed for West Cumbria.

The group have written this (slightly edited) update for today, the final day of the Public Inquiry.

"It has been an extraordinary 4 weeks. International scientists and climate experts presented evidence against the proposed Cumbrian coking mine on behalf of SLACC and Friends of the Earth, while WCM made almost daily amendments to its proposals and evidence to try and defend its position.

It is clear from the evidence given that the WCM mine will not be "net zero" in terms of carbon, and granting it permission would make it harder for the UK to meet the urgent challenge of climate change

With your help, SLACC has managed to bring together an amazing team of professionals, academics and experts to try and stop the mine. SLACC is a small charity with less than 100 members, but with your help, we have made a coherent and well researched case against new coal mines.  There is no time for delay.

You can watch the Inquiry live on Youtube as the final scenes play out, or scan through each day at your leisure afterwards.

Paul Brown, the Barrister for Friends of The Earth is scheduled to start his Closing Statement at about 1pm. It might be later, because the discussion on planning conditions in the morning may "overrun".

Estelle Dehon for SLACC may start at about 2.30pm, followed by West Cumbria Mining.

Rebecca Willis, Professor in Energy & Climate Governance, Lancaster University has been watching the Inquiry and said today “West Cumbria Mining claims that the planning inspector should ignore the carbon emissions that come from burning the coal from the mine. But the climate won’t ignore these emissions. The UK has a legal commitment to far-reaching climate action, and this mine takes us in exactly the wrong direction.”

The team at SLACC is hoping that we will not be too far "out of pocket" when our last few invoices come in, but are keeping our fundraising page open for now in case!"

The digital inquiry closes today. The inspector will then privately deliberate the evidence presented, write up a report and make a recommendation to the Secretary of State, who is now Michael Gove. In turn Michael Gove will look at the report and decide whether or not the mine can go ahead. There is no timetable released for the completion of the report, nor a date for when the government will make a decision.

New Coal Action Network report ~ Coal in Steel: Problems and solutions

Coal Action Network is excited to release a new report - Coal in Steel: problems and solutions

Coal in Steel is aimed at those looking for background information to campaigns against proposed new coking coal mines and considering how coal needs to be phased out of steel production. The report counters the positions of companies arguing for an ongoing need for coking coal in the steel industry. Coal in Steel is UK focused, but the coking coal mines proposed would export coal, to Europe or beyond.

The report answers questions such as:

  • When is coking coal used rather than thermal coal?

  • How is coking coal consumed by the steel industry?

  • What climate impacts does burning coking coal have?

  • What are the social and ecological impacts of mining coal?

  • How can we decarbonise the steel sector?

  • What is the government doing about steel sector emissions?

  • Why new coking coal mines are a step in the wrong direction.

The public inquiry into West Cumbria Mining Ltd's proposed 2.78mtpa coking coal mine opened last week. After the planning inspector gives his recommendation, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government will decide whether this application can extract coal to be sold predominantly to foreign markets. This report answers the arguments raised in support of this, and similar, applications.

Key facts in the report include:

  1. Two of the three biggest single site carbon emitters in the UK are Tata Steel's Port Talbot steelworks and British Steel's Scunthorpe steelworks, which use coking coal.

  2. Steel is already being produced in two of the four major UK steelworks via electric arc furnaces and recycled scrap steel, resulting in much lower emissions and no need for coal usage.

  3. The British government is considering the implications of the recommendation of its Climate Change Committee to ‘set targets for ore-based steelmaking to reach near-zero emissions by 2035’.

  4. Green hydrogen is already being used to produce steel without coal or large emissions, with project such as HYBRIT in Sweden having already sold low emission steel. Many more projects are expected to follow suit before 2030.

  5. Four of the five world's biggest steel makers have made strong commitments to net-zero carbon steel and drastic coal use reduction by 2050.

  6. There is no such thing as carbon neutral coking coal.

Download the Coal in Steel: problems and solutions report, or our one page summary to find out more.

Creative opposition to proposed Cumbrian coking coal mine on first day of public inquiry

From West Cumbria to London, opposition to the controversial proposal for an underground coking coal mine, sited near Whitehaven, is widespread and growing. On 7th September, the day the public inquiry investigating the proposal by West Cumbria Mining Ltd started, members of the public gather in two locations to demand a greener future, in which a new coal mine has no place.

West Cumbria Mining Ltd want to extract 2.78 million tonnes of coking coal annually that would emit around 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 each year until 2049. Cumbria County Council approved the application, but in March 2021, the government decided it will be the final arbitrator. This was the result of requests from many quarters, including over 113,999 people supporting Coal Action Network's demand the government call in the decision.

A flock of canaries descended on the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government in central London, with messages to the Robert Jenrick from members of the public. Around 70 members of the public gathered in total split between with the canaries at the Ministry and those at the proposed mine site near Whitehaven, Cumbria.

Underground coal miners used to take canaries in cages into the mines. The birds would weaken and die when exposed to lethal gasses released by mining, acting as an early detection to protect the miners working deep underground.

Jill Perry from West Cumbria, who attended the Cumbrian rally spoke via phone and megaphone to the concerned people gathered in London. She said, “The steel industry is very carbon-intensive but is making fast strides in weaning itself off coking coal and onto green hydrogen so we don't need this new coal mine, we need to encourage the British steel industry to solidify its future by going green, and Whitehaven to provide a more certain future for its residents by going for green jobs.”

The whole flock outside the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government to sounded the alarm about the damage approving this new coal mine proposal would do to limiting climate change. Many people are concerned what a new coal mine would do to the UK’s reputation in climate leadership, the government’s net-zero commitment, investment in jobs of limited future prospects, and to steel decarbonisation momentum.

Read the excellent write up of the London rally on Desmog.

West Cumbria Mining Ltd and EMR Capital - we reveal all.

Overview

Coal Action Network has commissioned research revealing massive debts of over £29million, Cayman Islands tax havens, corporate structures that undermine responsibility, and taxes that may not get paid.

Who owns who, and how

  • EMR Capital Resources Fund 1, LP. owns EMR Capital Investment (No.3B) Pte. Ltd.
  • EMR Capital Investment (No.3B) Pte. Ltd owns 80% of shares in West Cumbria Mining (Holdings) Ltd – enough to control it like a puppet.
  • West Cumbria Mining (Holdings) Ltd is the parent company of West Cumbria Mining Ltd.

Why does that matter?

If West Cumbria Mining Ltd gain planning permission for the coal mine, the local council will apply ‘section 106 conditions’ that’ll mandate its responsibilities such as remediating the environment at the end of mining. Legally, West Cumbria Mining Ltd. will need to fulfil these conditions (though they’re often ignored) as well as other responsibilities such as compensation if things go wrong – but it doesn’t have its own money to do that, as it’s financially dependent on EMR Capital. If these liabilities add up to more than the likely profit, EMR Capital could just asset-strip what little West Cumbria Mining Ltd owns, and walk away, leaving taxpayers in the UK to clean up the mess. A similar event happened with Margam opencast coal mine in 2010.

Who are EMR Capital Resources Fund 1, LP.?

A private equity fund that specialises in investments within the mining sector. EMR Capital Resources Fund 1, LP. and EMR Capital Investment (No.3B) Pte. Ltd have offices in the Cayman Islands tax haven, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. The company typically invests in a mine for 3-5 years, then sells it onto another private equity fund at a profit.

Why does that matter?

Selling a company at a profit is often done by cutting costs so the company is more profitable, at least in the short-term. Costs can be reduced by cutting employees (which happened recently), benefits, and operating standards such as environmental protection. The location of the company’s offices mean it has little accountability to the UK government, or us, if things go wrong such as people are injured or the environment requires remediation.

Loans and financial dependence

EMR Capital Investment has loaned West Cumbria Mining Ltd at least £29 MILLION so far. The interest on a portion of this loan rose to 15% in 2020. As of 2020, West Cumbria Mining (Holdings) Ltd owed £947,545 in interest alone. West Cumbria Mining Ltd’s 2020 annual financial report documents that the company’s viability is dependent on EMR Capital’s financial support.

Why does that matter?

This means that West Cumbria Mining Ltd is vulnerable to bankruptcy if EMR Capital Investment pull out, which it has reportedly started to consider. That could mean that the mine is started, causing a huge amount of local environmental damage, but not completed, with the taxpayer having to fix the environment to the extent it can afford to.

Taxes

West Cumbria Mining (Holdings) Ltd is operating over £12million in losses that’ll be offset against any future trading profit. Together with repaying its loan of £29 million to EMR Capital Investment and huge start-up costs, the amount that West Cumbria Mining pays in UK tax will be minimal for a long time.

Why does that matter?

A company profits from the natural resources and infrastructure owned and funded by us. This costs us in damage to the environment, infrastructure, and loss of natural resources. A key part of why companies are permitted to do this, is because we receive a proportion of that profit back in tax - more than it costs us, though it's obviously difficult to price natural resources and the environment that'll be impacted. West Cumbria Mining Ltd's finances means that we end up paying more than we get back, with company executives walking away with bonuses and huge profits that happen outside the reach of the UK tax authorities.

See a PDF of our parody investment brochure from EMR Capital... are you convinced?

Original research by Vivek Krotecha, 2021

Published: 01/09/2021