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New coal mine in Cumbria?

Plans for new coal mine ‘incompatible with UK climate ambitions and unnecessary’, finds new report
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
New coal mine in Cumbria?

The proposed new Woodhouse Colliery in Cumbria is not compatible with UK climate targets and will hold back the development of low carbon steelmaking, says a new report by think tank Green Alliance.

The report also refutes Cumbria County Council’s claim that the mine will be ‘carbon neutral’.

Jeopardising climate targets

Last August the UK announced a Clean Steel Fund and in June became the first major economy in the world to pass laws to end its contribution to global warming by 2050.

The target requires the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction from 1990 levels.

The report finds that the proposed Cumbria mine ‘will jeopardise these ambitions’.

‘The proposed mine is clearly incompatible with the UK’s climate ambitions and the need for a clean energy future. The new government has championed its commitment to climate action. It now needs to set out its policy on fossil fuel extraction, making clear that digging more coal out of the ground is no longer acceptable.’

An author of the briefing, The case against new coal mines in the UK

The proposed mine

Woodhouse Colliery is a proposed coal mine near Whitehaven in Cumbria. The proposal, by West Cumbria Mining, is for the first deep coal mine in England since 1987.

In March 2019, Cumbria County Council granted planning permission for the mine. The company’s plan is to commence construction in spring 2020, with coal production starting in 2022.

Coal from the mine is intended for steelmaking, which would produce 8.4 million tonnes of CO2 per year, equivalent to the emissions from over a million households.

‘Cumbria’s politicians understandably want to see new jobs on the West Coast. But we estimate that the profits from the mine would leave the local area, with only three per cent of the turnover spent on salaries. We urgently need an active, low carbon industrial strategy for Cumbria and other local areas, to generate thousands of green jobs rather than hundreds of coal jobs.’

Co-author of The case against new coal mines in the UK

Cheap coal

The report outlines four ways the steel industry should be cutting carbon: using less steel; using recycled steel; improving the efficiency of steel production with conventional blast furnaces and producing steel with new processes using renewable energy.

But opening a new coal mine at this point will hinder this strategy by ensuring the continued availability of cheap coal.

‘Clean energy has already made coal obsolete in the power sector. Our previous work shows that UK demand for coking coal would halve if steel producers opted for cheaper, cleaner steel production using today’s technologies. In addition, innovation in zero carbon steel production means this mine will likely become redundant in the near future, saddling Cumbria with an expensive stranded asset.’

Green Alliance’s policy director

Click here to read our article about how UK banks finance the coal industry.

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