Mines and Money Conference - ditch the dirty dollars, invest in our future!

We assume our invite got lost in the post...

People hailing from Cumbria to London, and everywhere in between, descended on the Mines and Money Conference in London across two days (28th-29th Nov 2023). We demanded that investors stop pouring cash into the mining sector, and  instead invest in our collective future. Together with Fossil Free London and other groups, we greeted investors with flyers highlighting risks to investments in mining that mining companies want to hide—such as successful grassroots resistance to mining projects around the world.

We also heard on the grapevine that EMR Capital PTY were attending in the desperate hope of raising the £230 million still needed to start the Whitehaven coal mine. So local campaigners from Cumbria came all the way to London to deliver a message to investors—steer clear of it. To further ruin EMR Capital PTY’s plans, they also handed investors a risk assessment provided by Bank Track outlining risks specific to the Whitehaven coal mine proposal. We even had time to fit in a visit to Talbot insurance company's HQ in the City of London - security saw us coming and put the whole building on "lock down"! But that didn't stop but engaging with employees and making out presence seen (and heard!). We demand that Talbot insurance company rules out the possibility of insuring the Whitehaven coal mine. No insurance = no coal mine!

There’s many options that we must make better use of before clawing the ground up to reach the mineral beneath, and that is where investment is needed. For example, we need:

  1. better closed-loop recycling and reuse
  2. new technologies and the efficiencies they can bring
  3. the eradication of planned obsolescence
  4. a reduction and prioritisation in what we consume

This would truly be ‘resourcing tomorrow’ - the strapline for this year’s Money & Mining conference. Instead, the conference encourages investment in the rush for remaining minerals, fuelling human rights abuses, land grabs, destruction of local eco-systems, and climate change.

We call out the host of this disastrous conference, the Business Design Centre, which boasts its ethical ‘B-Corp’ status. You might want to raise your concerns with the certifying body about giving these hosts any kind of ethical certification (, pointing out that at least three fossil fuel companies advertising coal mines and oil production were touting for investment at the conference (BHP, ADX Energy, and Teck).

Published: 29/11/2023

Q&A proposed West Cumbria coal mine questions

Concerned you don't have all the details to talk to people on the street about the proposed West Cumbria coal mine? This page gives suggestion answers to some of the more detailed questions campaigners get asked about West Cumbria Mining Ltd's plans for Whitehaven. Have a look and see if they help you feel more confident speaking about this campaign.

They serve as guide answers, you may have your own.

What is proposed?

West Cumbria Mining Ltd want to mine 2.78 million tonnes of coal a year until 2049. The company aims to produce around 64 million tonnes of coal in total, from a predominantly undersea mine.

This would result in 0.34 million tonnes of methane being released during the process of mining, and a further 200 million tonnes of CO2 when the coal is burned. The methane would account for almost 40% to the UK’s fossil production methane emissions by 2030, putting critical methane targets at risk. The CO2 is equivalent to the United Arab Emirates' total 2021 emissions.

Potential questions, with answers

"We need the coal for power stations"

The coal is destined for foreign steelworks, it’s not the type normally used in power stations. The UK got less than 2% of its energy from coal last year, we don’t need more coal to keep lights on.

"We need the coal for UK steel making"

Almost all the coal would be exported. Both the UK’s major steelworks – at Port Talbot and Scunthorpe – have confirmed they will close their coal-based blast furnaces and install electric arc furnaces which recycle scrap steel without coal. At present this scrap steel is exported to be recycled abroad and then recycled steel is reimported. There is plenty of scope to increase UK-based recycling.

"The coal would be high quality"

Coal from Whitehaven is high in sulphur and causes acid rain when burnt. So its use is restricted by the UK and European Union. This means the coal is most likely to be sold to Turkey, outside the EU – a major steelmaker with lower pollution standards.

In order to reduce the sulphur content of the coal, it would need to be either blended with low sulphur coal, like that mined in Australia, or it would need to be ‘ barrel washed’. There’s no information from West Cumbria Mining Ltd on how washing would be done, or where the polluted waste from washing would go.

"You can’t make steel without coal"

The main way that new steel is made currently uses coal, but already 9% of steel is made by Direct Reduction which doesn’t need to use coal. Direct Reduction can use hydrogen (or fossil fuels, inc. coal). Only hydrogen made from renewables can be considered green.

In the UK there are already 4 steelworks that recycle scrap steel in electric arc furnaces and 2 major steelworks with blast furnaces which use large amounts of coal. The latter are the UK’s 2nd and 3rd biggest single site emitters of CO2. The blast furnace operators have agreed to convert to electric arc furnaces and stop using coal within the next few years, with one expected to convert in March 2024.

The UK government has been investing in carbon capture and storage projects, which have been unsuccessful in capturing significant quantities of greenhouse gasses. The UK is behind other European countries on investment in new green steel technology. There are new primary steel manufacturing methods that use green hydrogen with direct reduction iron that can be utilised in the UK if there was political will.

"You still need coal in electric arc furnaces (EAF)"

Although the lobby group UK Steel says 9kg of coking coal may be used in EAF to produce a tonne of steel (versus 780kg for a tonne of blast furnace steel), other sources of carbon are possible to completely exclude coal use, using the same infrastructure.

"You can’t always use recycled steel"

In the construction industry, steel is often over-supplied by as much as 50%. We can use far less to build the same amount of things. We need to employ engineers to more accurately calculate what is needed, and reduce the amount of raw materials produced.

Steel must be part of the circular economy, alongside reducing use and reusing it before recycling, rather than extracting more materials to make ever more goods.

Companies like Volvo, and top-end manufacturers like Porche, are demanding green steel for their cars. Advances in technology mean ever more metal is able to be recycled and progress in design can reduce contaminants in scrap metal.

"It would be a carbon-neutral mine"

Coal mines are not carbon-neutral. They release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas whilst coal is being mined and release CO2 when the coal is later burned.

Once coal is brought above ground it will be burnt, as companies can make a profit. So coal mined in West Cumbria would worsen climate change through increased coal use. Mining coal in Cumbria doesn't mean it will be left underground somewhere else, as companies with planning permission will sell everything they can having already invested in mines.

The International Panel on Climate Change says that we cannot be net-zero by 2050 if we open any more fossil fuel extraction sites and that we have to close some of the existing ones.

Gold Standard is the carbon offsetting company that West Cumbria Mining Ltd intended to pay to offset emissions from its proposed coal mine by planting trees or supporting renewable schemes. However, Gold Standard responded to this intention by saying “Our claims guidelines make it clear that to make an offset claim organisations should prioritise the avoidance and reduction of emissions – something that is clearly impossible for a coalmine”. Even if an offsetting company wanted this business, the coal mine’s methane emissions would not be offset.

"The methane will be captured"

West Cumbria Mining Ltd doesn’t intend to begin collecting methane released from the proposed coal mine until 5 years after the project starts. The majority of this highly potent greenhouse gas is released when the mine is first created, so even if methane capture equipment caught and burnt 100% of methane released (which it won’t) it will be too little, too late.

"We need the jobs"

Whitehaven may need more jobs but the jobs in this mine, were it to go ahead, would be very different to those in previous local mines. The project would be technologically advanced and employ far fewer people that mines traditionally. Most likely the company would bring in foreign workers, such as Australian miners experienced with ultra-modern mines.

Unionised green jobs can be created in Whitehaven with the right government support, such as for trades people insulating the poor quality housing stock, or improving public transport and doing good for the area as well as creating work. A Just Transition for Cumbria is crucial and means that the community is put at the heart of decisions and workers are leading their industries.

"People from out of the area can’t tell us what to do"

People living in Whitehaven are also concerned about the ecological and climate impacts that this mine would have. If the mine goes ahead, the coal will worsen climate change which affects us all. No-one in Cumbria wants to be flooded by increasingly heavy rains washing away soil in fields and devastating homes, nor to experience droughts brought on by extreme temperatures. Climate change will bring both.

"It’s a local mining company"

West Cumbria Mining Ltd is 81% owned by EMR Capital, a private equity investment fund that manages various mines, with offices in Australia, the Cayman Islands tax haven, and Singapore. The head of EMR Capital used to work for the infamous Rio Tinto. The investors in the project are predominantly from Australia and the USA. There are no local offices or employees of WCM Ltd.

"Mining is our heritage"

We can be proud of our mining heritage and still want a different future.

Our world has changed since coal mining brought stable work and the community of the pits. We no longer need to risk people’s lives in mining coal seems that we know to be gassy and dangerous—we have other ways to make steel and to heat homes.

"Contamination in proposed area"

The Marchon Bank Chemical works was closed in 2005. It had been a detergent factory, as well as the largest single-site producer of sulphuric acid in Europe and the largest single-site producer of Sodium Tripolyphospate in the world. There were also phosphoric acid plants.

The land was registered as contaminated. Although nothing changed at the site, the status was removed in 2013 when the site was approved for a biomass plantation and public access.

If mining were to go ahead, it would involve removing large concrete pads locking in the contamination at the site, this presents a risk of airbourne toxins. This is a risk, especially to the people living in the hundreds of new houses built around the northern and eastern perimeters of the site.

"They only want to dump nuclear waste"

The company that is behind West Cumbria Mining Ltd, EMR Capital, is a holdings company which buys global mining projects (not just for coal) and extracts minerals. If all the permissions and contracts are in place and the project is financially viable then coal mining will happen here.

It may be possible that once the site stops being economically viable or is sold to another company, that nuclear waste from Sellafield or further afield could be dumped in the dug out areas. We can’t assume that the only reason they want permission to mine is to dump nuclear waste, the opportunity to extract coal and turn a profit is too big to be ignored for nuclear waste dumping alone.

"There’s nothing that can be done to stop it"

There is not a coal mine on this site. There is still everything to play for.

To operate the project likely needs a license for the undersea section from the Marine Management Organisation – which could take a year to get from the time of application. There are other permissions and there has to be companies – including investors and insurance companies - prepared to aid a new coal mine in the 2020s. A new government could stop the application or the current legal challenge against its permission may force a new decision.

There’s lots we can still do. The last underground coal mine to be permitted in the UK, New Crofton Co-operative Colliery, never started.

"A coal mine needs insurance"

Coal mines have to obtain insurance to operate. If there is no insurance then there is no coal mine.

Financial firms and big investors won’t put money into a project which doesn’t have insurance to ensure that their investments are protected.

Campaigning to stop the insurance of fossil fuels keeps them in the ground

More details

What next?

We're designing cards that you can print at home with bullet point summaries of these answers in case you'd feel happier talking to people about the proposed mine with a reminder with you. (Coming soon)

Good luck

5 Insurers Rule Out Insuring The West Cumbria Mine

On Friday September 15th, as insurers and banks faced a wave of national protest, Coal Action Network announced that five insurers have given guarantees that they will not provide cover for the planned controversial West Cumbria Coal Mine.

The insurers that have ruled out underwriting the mine are AEGIS Managing Agency, Argenta Syndicate Management, Argo, Hannover Re and Talanx. These are the first financial institutions to rule out any involvement with the project, and the win represents a new phase in the campaign to stop the project from going ahead.

Global Fight to End Fossil Fuels on September 15-17th saw half a million people joining protests across the globe to call for a just transition away from coal, oil and gas in history, making it the largest climate mobilisation since the start of the pandemic. Over 400 actions, marches, rallies, and events took place around the world, coordinated by more than 780 endorsing organisations with millions of participants taking part. In the UK Protests took place in London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, York, Wrexham, Cardiff, Shrewsbury and Croydon. Hundreds of campaigners from Extinction Rebellion, Mothers Rebellion and Coal Action Network took to the streets assembling with banners and placards, at the doors of financial institutions, yet to rule out supporting the proposed mine.

They were joined by Buddhist and Quaker groups and other members of the local community. Some groups took part in theatrical actions, dressing as canaries to draw the link between the birds used in mines and the toxicity this mine will bring, while others held silent vigils.

“No time for a coal mine” banners appear on all major roads into Cumbria

As thousands of visitors travelled into Cumbria for the busy August bank holiday they were met with a powerful statement: 25 large banners opposing the proposed new coal mine near Whitehaven with the words ‘NO TIME for a COAL MINE’.

The banners, which targeted all the major roads leading into Cumbria on Friday 25th August were unfurled by new anti-coal action group ‘No Time for a Coal Mine’. Leaflets were handed out in in Kendal, Carlisle, Keswick, Kirkby Lonsdale and Penrith and fly posters also appeared.

It is the latest in a series of actions against the proposed 2.78 million tonne-a-year mine which has met with significant local, national and international opposition.


Sarah McGowan who was born in Whitehaven and took part in the action says, "We can all see the impacts of climate change. In Cumbria the summer has been a washout since June, while on the Hawaiian island of Maui people escaped firestorms by jumping into the sea. Meanwhile the IPCC has said we simply cannot afford to permit any new coal mines, the UK government is flying in the face of reason. Our banners show the strength of feeling against the coal mine and our determination to keep the coal in the ground. The mine must be stopped.”

West Cumbria Mining Ltd is looking to extract a total of 67 million tonnes of coking coal from under the seabed off Whitehaven right up to 2049. The vast majority of this coal would be exported to foreign steelworks, as it is too high in sulphur to comply with UK and European air pollution regulations.[1]


Of the two existing UK steelworks using coal, Tata Steel alone could tolerate small amounts of coal from Whitehaven. Tata Steel is currently negotiating with government for subsidies to decarbonise, ending coal use, or it has threatened closure. If the project goes ahead, the Cumbrian coal would emit more than 200 million tonnes of CO₂, primarily from its use in blast furnaces. Its extraction would result in the release of around 334,000 tonnes of methane even if mine methane capture equipment is used (901,000 tonnes without capture).

So far, 2023 has seen the hottest global temperatures for June and July in recorded history. Hundreds of millions of people across the USA, Europe and Asia have been hit by extreme heat while deadly wildfires have raged through southern Europe, Canada, Russia, Hawaii and beyond.


The government’s approval of this proposed mine faces two legal challenges, that was due to be heard in the High Court in October 2023. This has recently been delayed pending the outcome of a recent Supreme Court case relating to the oil wells at Horse Hill, Surrey (Finch v Surrey County Council). Both cases relate to consideration of end-use emissions in the Environmental Impact Assessment. If the Supreme Court decides that end-use emissions should be considered, this would greatly increase the chance of the government’s decision on the proposed mine being revoked.

Increasing global temperatures threaten food and water security for many millions of people, endanger lives and will
increase mass migration as areas around the world become uninhabitable. Globally, it is those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis who are already suffering the most.

The banners show the strength of public feeling against the government’s coal proposal, and highlights that there are many people prepared to take action to ensure that the coal remains underground at Whitehaven.


[1] Cumbria County Council Executive Director - Economy and Infrastructure, Development Control and Regulation Committee Application Reference No:4/17/90077.17

Hearing delayed - challenges against Whitehaven coal mine approval

The hearing of two legal challenges against the government's approval of a 2.78 million tonne a year coking coal mine has been delayed from October, likely into the new year.

Part of both challenges rely on the outcome of a separate judgement from the Supreme Court. A judgment is due on that landmark case, over the decision to allow oil drilling at Horse Hill in Surrey, brought by campaigner Sarah Finch on behalf of the Weald Action Group. The Horse Hill challenge was heard by the Supreme Court in June and the court has not yet given judgment.

According to Friends of the Earth "lawyers for Ms Finch argued that the environmental impact assessment (EIA) carried out by developers before planning permission was granted should have accounted for the climate impacts from burning the oil extracted at Horse Hill. These are known as ‘downstream’ or ‘Scope 3’ emissions and were not accounted for during the planning process."

"Downstream emissions are increasingly being left out of environmental impact assessments when planning applications are made for fossil fuel projects, despite the huge climate impacts these projects will inevitably create, the mounting climate crisis and the UK government’s stated commitment to net zero."

"If Ms Finch’s challenge is successful, with the court potentially ruling that decision makers need to take into consideration downstream emissions before approving planning applications, the outcome of the Horse Hill case could have major implications for the future of the Whitehaven coal mine. It could open up new grounds for lawyers to argue against the mine’s approval on the basis that downstream emissions were not considered."

"The Supreme Court is not expected to give its judgment until autumn 2023 at the earliest. When that does eventually happen, the High Court will then set a date for the Whitehaven hearing, but there is likely to be a gap of at least ten weeks between judgment and hearing. Lawyers for Friends of the Earth and SLACC therefore believe a 2024 Whitehaven hearing is increasingly likely." Further details from Friends of the Earth can be read here.

Originally the two legal challenges by South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) and Friends of the Earth were rejected. Then it was decided that the cases will be heard at what’s known as a ‘rolled up’ hearing which in practice this is the same as a trial. As long as permission is given in day one, the trial will last for three days. This was planned  to take place 24th to 26th October 2023. This will now not be heard until a later date.

Friends of the Earth and SLACC launched their legal challenges in January 2023 after Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, gave planning permission to the new coking mine in December 2022. The organisations were the 2 main parties opposing the coal mine at the planning inquiry which took place in September 2021.

SLACC and Friends of the Earth contend that Mr Gove failed to account for the significant climate impacts of the mine, including the acceptability of carbon credits to offset the mine’s emissions, the international precedent that opening a new mine would set and the impact of opening the mine on the global coal market. For further details of the challenges see

Upcoming events against proposed Whitehaven coal mine

There are regular events being held in protest of the proposed mine outside of the former Marchon works site, where West Cumbria Mining want to extract coking coal. There have been speakers including Chris Packham, the anti-Fracking Nanas, Trade Unions and others against the proposals. It's a good opportunity to meet others in opposition.

So far all have taken place in the lay-by on the South end of High Road, Whitehaven, close to CA28 9QJ.

Check out previous events here. Come to the next one and show your support for leaving the coal in the ground at this site and all other coal seams.

The next dates are:
  • 4th November, Saturday 10-3pm Non Violent Direct Action training Kendal (booking required)
  • 18 November Saturday noon -2pm Speaker's Corner, proposed West Cumbria Mine site
  • 18th November Saturday 2.30-5.30pm Direct Action training in Whitehaven. No experience necessary, lots to do if you aren't into being arrested. Car sharing from Speaker's Corner that afternoon. Please book at through Action Network
  • 28rth to 30th November London, Protest at the Mines and Money conference (details TBC). The company behind the proposal is attending and likely looking for financial investors.
  • 3rd December Sunday 10-3pm Non Violent Direct Action training Kendal Kendal (booking required)
  • 8 December Friday. Speaker's corner One year since the government approved the mine application

Please note the events are not organised by Coal Action Network, but a coalition of groups and Cumbria residents. More details will be added when they are available.

Whitehaven legal challenge update

High Court agrees to hear coal mine legal challenge

A High Court judge has given the go ahead for 2 legal challenges over the government’s decision to grant planning permission for a controversial new underground coking coal mine in West Cumbria to proceed to a 3 day hearing.

The decision has been welcomed by South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) and Friends of the Earth - the organisations behind the legal claims.

The cases will now be heard at what’s known as a ‘rolled up’ hearing which in practice this is the same as a trial. As long as permission is given in day one, the trial will last for three days and is likely to take place 24th to 26th October 2023.

Earlier this week, it was reported that a Supreme Court appeal over plans to allow oil drilling at Horse Hill in Surrey, brought by the appellant Sarah Finch, could set a precedent for the legality of approving new fossil fuel developments. The landmark challenge is due to take place on 21 June, with the company behind the Cumbrian mine intervening as an interested party. Both organisations legal challenges against the Whitehaven mine approval link to the Horse Hill case.

Friends of the Earth and SLACC launched their legal challenges in January after Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, gave planning permission to the new coking mine in December 2022. The organisations were the 2 main parties opposing the coal mine at the planning inquiry which took place in September 2021.

SLACC and Friends of the Earth contend that Mr Gove failed to account for the significant climate impacts of the mine, including the acceptability of carbon credits to offset the mine’s emissions, the international precedent that opening a new mine would set and the impact of opening the mine on the global coal market. For further details of the challenges see

Maggie Mason of SLACC said: 

“This is a positive and sensible decision. Having looked at the submitted papers, the Court has decided it is worth scheduling a three-day hearing on SLACC and Friends of the Earth’s legal challenges. SLACC members and supporters will observe the Finch versus Surrey County Council Hearing in June, and hope that the death and destruction caused by burning oil and gas will, in future, be taken into account before any new mines and oil wells are given planning permission."

Friends of the Earth campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

“We’re delighted the court agrees that our legal challenge against this mine deserves to be heard. We believe the Secretary of State made significant climate-related errors when he granted planning permission for this development, and that his decision was unlawful. With climate breakdown accelerating even faster than scientists predicted, it’s more important than ever that ministers’ decisions reflect the long-term interests of people and the planet, and not misguided short-term political considerations."

Actions against the proposed coal mine at Whitehaven since Govt approval

Groups have taken action since the government approved a new coal mine, proposed for Whitehaven, Cumbria, on the 8th December 2022—including:

On Friday 27th October, visitors and residents travelling in Cumbria were met by a powerful message of opposition to the proposed new coal mine at Whitehaven. Large banners were hung at major roads across the county, declaring this is “No Time for a Coal Mine”. The banners were hung at the M6 junction at Penrith, on the A66 at Keswick and Cockermouth, on bridges over the Staveley by-pass and the A591 at Kendal, at Garsdale Head and at Whitehaven itself.

Meanwhile, posters emblazoned with “No Time for a Coal Mine” appeared all around Kendal and Penrith. On Saturday 28th October, the Cumbrian Canaries made an outing at the Winter Droving festival in Penrith, raising the alarm about the proposed coal mine and handing out around 800 leaflets to the revellers.

October's Speakers' Corner hosted Prof. Julia Steinberger, an IPCC 6th Assessment Report author who said that demand reduction is needed to reduce the worst impacts of climate change, and that we already have the technology to ensure this can happen while ensuring a comfortable life. There were 5 other brilliant speakers.

The event was planned to mark the first day of the legal challenge against the Government's approval of the mine proposal, but the hearing has been postponed until after a linked case, which will decide whether the end use emissions need to be considered when giving planning consent. This would mean that the emissions from consuming coal from this site in steelworks would need to be counted, not just those released from mining. 

On the 18th October, hundreds of protesters occupied the plush City of London offices of ten Lloyd’s of London insurers demanding they rule out insuring the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and the East Africa Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP). Earlier that day the protesters marched waving banners saying “Don’t Insure EACOP” and “Don’t Insure West Cumbria Mine” to three high profile buildings including the “Walkie Talkie” where in a coordinated swoop, activists are causing disruption in the office foyers of Ascot, Talbot, Chaucer, Markel, Allied World, CNA Hardy, Tokio Marine Kiln, Sirius International and Lancashire Syndicates. The activists staged a sit-in. More details here.

On the 15th September, the Global day of action against fossil fuel finance, kicked off demonstrations at the offices of Lloyd of London Insurance companies kicking off the campaign to ensure West Cumbria Mining Ltd don't get insurance for the proposed coal mine. Demonstrations took place in places including London, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Birmingham, York, Wrexham, Croydon and Cardiff.

At September's Speakers' Corner event the demonstrators heard from Sarah Finch, Weald Action Group, about the proposal to extract oil in Surrey - which she is challenging in the Supreme Court.

Michael Gove referenced the High Court decision on the case of Horse Hill in Surrey, and used that case to justify excluding the greenhouse gas emissions that would arise from burning the coal from the mine. Sarah's court case questions how end use emissions can be ignored in projects like oil or coal extraction. The Horse Hill decision is awaited and will likely influence the outcome of the legal challenges against the Whitehaven proposal and therefore whether the mine goes ahead.

At the end of August 2023 Earth First! squatted the site of the proposed Whitehaven coal mine and held a week long gathering packed with inspiring discussions, delicious food, wonderful workshops, lots of sock wrestling and some spectacular sunsets! It was a week of radical ecological existence, bursting with love and burning with revolutionary spirit. Their message was

"This mine will not go ahead, leave the coal in the hole!The world is burning. More and more people are waking up to the reality we are faced with: we must end not just fossil fuels but also the capitalist system that places profit above planet and people."

As thousands of visitors travelled into Cumbria for the busy August bank holiday they were met with a powerful statement: 25 large banners opposing the proposed new coal mine near Whitehaven with the words ‘NO TIME for a COAL MINE’ on all the roads into Cumbria.

Leafleting also happened in Carlisle, Keswick, Kirkby Lonsdale and Penrith with a good reception.

Not Coal, Not Dole, speakers' corner on the 22nd July Just Transition and Climate Jobs saw people come to the proposed site from across the North. Speakers included: Willie Black from Scot E3 and Unite the Union; Joseph Healey, Left Unity and Unite the Union, Gail Bradbrook founder of Extinction Rebellion whose father was a coal miner and Clara Paillard Former President of PCS union Culture group compared.

30th June speakers' corner where those there heard four very informative and inspirational speakers - all of whom underlined the extreme recklessness of even considering building a new coal mine; and pointed out how what west Cumbria - and especially its young people - needed, and could have, was many more good, long-term, green jobs that didn't wreck the climate and, instead, would help build a better & more sustainable future for the local community.

Chris Packham joined Friends of the Earth, Extinction Rebellion and others at the first ‘Speaker’s Corner’ event outside the gates of the proposed site in May 2023. This is now a regular event.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change and Friends of the Earth are running legal challenges against the Government’s December 2022 approval of the coal mine. Both organisations assert that the decision to grant planning permission for the coal mine was unlawful, as the Secretary of State did not properly consider the climate impacts of this mine. A judge will decide if there is a case to answer, and, if so, will hear that case in a three day trial 24th to 26th October.

Extinction Rebellion North Lakes and others at the ‘Big One’ protests in London in April protested outside Javelin Commodities, because the company has agreed to sell any coal extracted from the site to steelmakers, predominantly outside of the UK. During 4 days of protests there were numerous banners and placards from various groups against the proposal in Cumbria.

In February 2023, vicars and other Christians protested outside the Leeds, Manchester and Newcastle offices of Ward Hadaway, lawyers for West Cumbria Mining Ltd, and the London headquarters of Javelin Global Commodities, who intend to sell coal for West Cumbria Mining Ltd. Christian Climate Action are calling on both companies to “cut the ties” with the proposed new coal mine in Cumbria. The protesters held banners with the message ‘Coal is killing humanity’ and delivered letters asking the organisations to end their involvement with West Cumbria Mining, the company behind the coal mine.

In mid-January Extinction Rebellion protested dressed as canaries outside of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities that approved the application, lighting smoke bombs and spreading out a fake oil slick.

Just before Christmas (2022) a gang of Santas delivered sacks of faux coal to Michael Gove for being a very naughty boy at his Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities in an action by Coal Action Network and Lush cosmetics. The Santas held signs reading “Christmas coal for climate criminal Gove” after Gove’s approval of the coal mine application.

A wide range of groups and individuals protested at the proposed coal mine site outside Whitehaven in December 2022 during the week following the Government’s approval of work at the site. There were speeches and a commitment to ensure that this coal stays in the ground.

XR North Lakes gathered in Penrith on December 9th following the Government’s approval of the mine scheme.

Legal challenges against Whitehaven coal mine approval

In December 2022, the UK government approved a 2.78 million tonne a year coking coal mine proposed for Whitehaven, Cumbria. South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) has started proceedings for a Statutory Review of this decision. At the same time, Friends of the Earth have also filed a legal challenge. This article looks at the grounds for these legal challenges.

While there are at least 11 arguments why the decision is wrong, only the process behind arriving at the decision can be challenged at a Statutory Review, rather than the decision itself.

Below are the 4 grounds that Richard Buxton Solicitors is challenging on behalf of SLACC, followed be the 4 grounds of Friends of the Earth’s case. A public inquiry was held in 2021, run by a Planning Inspector. After it finished, the Planning Inspector wrote up his recommendation to the UK Government in his report. The Secretary of State based his decision to approve the Whitehaven coal mine on this Inspector’s Report.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change legal challenge

Ground 1 – error of law and/ or failure to give understandable reasons concerning substitution.

The Inspector’s report assumes there will be “some degree of substitution” between coal mined abroad, likely from the USA, and coal from Whitehaven. Unless the substitution would be 100%, as in exactly the same amount of coal extracted from Cumbria would be left underground in a permitted mine elsewhere, the mine would still result in increased global emissions. Substitution won't be anywhere near 100%, as the owners of mines elsewhere will simply sell the coal to different steelworks. The Secretary of State decided on an “overall neutral effect on climate change”, despite the increase in emissions.

Ground 2 – error of law in discounting the international impacts of allowing this mine.

Sir Robert Watson, former chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, gave evidence that many other countries will follow suit and approve fossil fuel projects as a result of this decision. A rare letter from Lord Deben from the Climate Change Committee concurred, the decision “gives a negative impression of the UK’s climate priorities in the year of COP26.”

The UK’s international climate reputation was a key reason that the government called in the decision, rather than allowing Cumbria County Council to make it. The Inspector’s report completely fails to deal with both sets of evidence related to this central controversial issue.

Ground 3 – errors of law concerning whether ‘downstream emissions’ caused by the coking coal were indirect significant environment effects of the proposal.

The Inspector concluded that downstream emissions - those resulting in the use of the coking coal, rather than its extraction - “cannot reasonably be regarded as indirect significant effects of the proposed development.” This is incorrect understanding of the law because of the above substitution error – as other coal will not be 100% substituted for mining reduction elsewhere, but also a misunderstanding of the implications of a cited court case (Finch). Without this coal being mined, it wouldn’t be burnt and so there would be significantly fewer downstream emissions.

Ground 4 – unlawful disparity of treatment of the parties and error concerning the approach to the burden of proof.

The Inspector applied different standards to the parties throughout the inquiry. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), paragraph 217, imposes a high threshold of evidence as to the benefits of a coal mine on the applicant rather than those opposing it. The Inspector seemed to do the opposite, imposing a higher threshold upon testimonies against the coal mine development. This might have influenced how the Government later interpreted the testimonies through the Inspector's report.

Friends of the Earth’s legal challenge

Ground 1: Approach to considering the effect of the development on the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget.

The impact of the mine on the UK’s Sixth Carbon Budget, which covers the years 2033 to 2037, was a key issue in the Public Inquiry.

The mining company had entered a legal agreement requiring it to buy international carbon offset credits to offset residual emissions from the mine. In the decision letter the Secretary of State concluded that this requirement meant the mine would be net-zero for the purposes of the Sixth Carbon Budget. That conclusion was wrong and unlawful. Such offset credits do not count towards the UK’s carbon budgets.

Ground 2: Approach to considering the international impacts of the decision.

Similar to SLACC’s Ground 2 reasoning.

Ground 3: Approach to ‘substitution’ of WCM coal and the global coal market.

Similar to SLACC’s Ground 1 reasoning.

Ground 4: Earlier court case (Finch) and downstream emissions.

The Secretary of State’s reasoning closely follows the judgment of the Court of Appeal in the case of R (Finch) v Surrey County Council, both in terms of whether downstream emissions should have been the subject of environmental assessment, and in terms of the case-by-case assessment of their materiality. It is argued that this is a misinterpretation of the judgement, similar to SLACC’s Ground 3.

As both legal challenges base one of their grounds on the R (Finch) v Surrey County Council court case, and which is subject to a Supreme Court decision going to court in June, it is expected that the challenges against the coal mine will be delayed until after the R (Finch) v Surrey County Council court case is heard. Once a single day hearing has happened, a decision will be given as to whether or not the government has to remake the decision on the Whitehaven case.

The full documents can be read on SLACC’s website

More details on the challenge by Friends of the Earth are available at

Santa delivers Christmas coal to Gove for Whitehaven approval

Cumbria mine puts gove on naughty list: santas deliver sacks of ‘coal’ to him at his whitehall office.

  • Michael Gove is put on the naughty list for Cumbria Whitehaven mine; a gang of Santas delivers coal to Gove’s Whitehall office on behalf of Coal Action Network and Lush Cosmetics in a festive protest.
  • Gove has been criticised by his own party, the Government’s own Climate Change Committee, Industry Leaders, and Environmental groups.

On Wednesday (21/12/2022) a gang of Santas delivered sacks of ‘naughty list coal’ to Michael Gove at his Department of Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities office in Whitehall on behalf of Coal Action Network and Lush cosmetics.  Holding signs reading “Christmas coal for climate criminal Gove ”, and “No new coal”, the festive action was in protest against the recent Whitehaven coal mine approval.

Since Gove announced his approval of the Whitehaven coal mine application on 7th December, he has been heavily criticised by members of his own party, the Government’s own Climate Change Committee, industry leaders, and environmental groups. Over the original coal mine timeline, the coal operator would mine 64 million tonnes of coal, resulting in 200 million tonnes of CO2, and 340 thousand tonnes of potent climate change accelerant, methane.

Gove’s 15-page letter outlining his reasons for approving the Whitehaven coal mine has already been left in tatters by steel industry leaders who have said British Steelworks can’t rely on Whitehaven coal as it’s too high in polluting sulphur. Gove’s justification was dealt another blow when Owen Hewlett, the chief technical officer of Gold Standard offsetting, called the idea of making the coal mine carbon-neutral through Gold Standard offsetting “obviously nonsense, morally nonsense and technically insane”.

Coal Action Network said “We’re here because Santa knows who’s been naughty and nice, and Gove’s top of the naughty list for approving the Whitehaven coal mine. If more coal mines are really Gove’s only levelling up offer, Santa’s got a message for him this Christmas: climate change only levels down. It’s a dead-end industry distracting from the levelling up potential of jobs with a future.”

Lush campaigns manager Andrew Butler says, “Lush will be Santa for lots of people this Christmas and while we usually provide nice presents, Gove is firmly on our naughty list. But to say Gove has been naughty is a gross understatement. His reckless decision to approve a new coal mine in West Cumbria puts us all on the path to climate catastrophe and makes extreme weather like the floods that displaced tens of millions of people in Pakistan more likely. Gove is not just naughty, he is a climate criminal.”

In a joint statement Coal Action Network and Lush Santas say, “We must remember that individuals are making these decisions that cost us billions, our quality of life, and our very future. Where is the individual accountability for that? Families are freezing in their homes this winter because someone in Government effectively stopped the home insulation programme around a decade ago. Instead of holding that person responsible and reversing that damage, Gove approves a coal mine for a steel industry that doesn’t want it, derailing our climate promises. Santa is all about individual accountability and doesn’t care if someone hides behind a Ministerial title—so these sacks of ‘coal’ are delivered to Michael Gove personally this Xmas.”

Published 23/12/2022