By Anders Lorenzen
Despite the UK government’s policy to end all coal-powered electricity by 2028, a local council in Cumbria, northern England, has voted in favour of building a new coal mine.
Despite local campaigners strongly opposing the project, it was given a decisive go-ahead by the council and also backed by the local MP.
The new mine is being developed by West Cumbria Mining Limited who have said it will process 2.5m tonnes of coking coal a year for the UK and the European steel industry, replacing imports from the US, Canada, Russia and Columbia.
Coking coal is used in the process of creating coke which is necessary for iron and steel-making. Coke itself is a porous, hard black rock of concentrated carbon created by heating bituminous coal without air to extremely high temperatures.
When announcing the approval of the mine, Councillor Geoff Cook, chair of Cumbria county council’s development control and the regulation committee, said, “All of us would prefer to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and we recognise that during construction there will be disruption to many local residents. However, we felt that the need for coking coal, the number of jobs on offer and the chance to remove contamination outweighed concerns about climate change and local amenity.”
In a move seen as contradictory by many, in an attempt to mitigate some of the impacts of the coal plant on the environment, the owners have agreed on a deal for a 50-megawatt solar farm nearby to provide about a third of the project’s energy needs.
It is estimated the mine will bring around 500 jobs to the region and a total of 2,000 jobs counting the supply chain and it is to begin production in two years time.
Greenpeace was amongst the organisations opposing the mine saying it could not be justified and argued that instead there should be a focus on recycling steel rather than opening a coal mine to power the steel industry in the region.