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 primary steel production.

The UK government is to decide whether West Cumbria Mining Ltd can start a new large underground coking coal mine, called Woodhouse Colliery, in West Cumbria. West Cumbria Mining Ltd plan to export coking coal to European steelworks which would worsen climate change. The planning application will be decided following a Public Inquiry in Autumn 2021.

All aspects of the steel industry are globalised, including the coking coal inputs, iron ore, finished products, scrap steel, and the emissions produced. The impacts of these emissions are experienced internationally and the rest are traded globally. Solutions to decarbonise steel, therefore, must cross national borders with answers needed everywhere—so we should start taking action wherever we are based. The UK government intends to decarbonise steel by 2035, giving steel companies an central role in reducing emissions and changing the accepted standards of steel production and resource use.

In the UK, Port Talbot and Scunthorpe Steelworks are the second and third biggest single site emitters of carbon. Both sites use the broadly two stage ‘blast furnaces – basic oxygen furnaces’ with metallurgical coal to make virgin steel. The other two large steel producers – Liberty Steel and Celsa recycle scrap steel in ‘electric arc furnaces’ which reduces the climate impact of those steel products.

Four of the five biggest global steel producers aim to reach carbon neutral steel production by 2050. To keep up, the UK’s steelworks need to decarbonise as well. If not, customers aiming to reach their own climate goals will likely choose to import lower carbon steel from other European countries like Sweden and Spain who are pursuing low-emissions steelmaking projects.


Unite to fight for a just steel transition

Port Talbot Steelworks in South Wales is the largest producer of virgin steel in the UK. Along with British Steel steelworks in Scunthorpe, Port Talbot steelworks is expected to shut down its blast furnaces in 2024 and build a 3 million tonne (MT) electric arc furnace (EAF) to recycle scrap steel. This is a measure to reduce the steelworks CO2 footprint by cutting out coal used in traditional blast furnaces in virgin steelmaking.

Ditch the dirty dollars – invest in our future!

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…

Port Talbot steel transition

On 15th September 2023, The Guardian reported that Tata Steel accepted Government funding to avoid closing its steelworks in Port Talbot, South Wales, by decarbonising it instead – but at a loss of up to 3,000 jobs. The UK Government is providing £500 million, and Tata Steel is expected to provide another £725 million…

UK Coal Round Up

Update on coal extraction and use in the UK. The situation with coal production and use in the UK is changing. There is a legal challenges to the proposed West Cumbria coal mine and Aberpergwm extension; and an illegal mine operating in Merthyr Tydfil. Updated stats from the government’s July Digest of UK Energy Statistics.

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…

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

New report from Coal Action Network. Coal in Steel provides background information to campaigns against proposed new coking coal mines and considering how coal needs to be phased out of steel production.


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