First new coal mine approved by UK government in 30 years

Announcement of new mine in Cumbria to provide coal for steel production has sparked anger from environmental campaigners

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The approval of a controversial new coal mine has provoked anger from environmental campaigners.

After years of government delay, Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove has granted planning permission for what would be the the first new site in the UK in 30 years.

The coal from the mine near Whitehaven, to be known as Woodhouse Colliery, will be used for steel production, not power generation, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said.

Friends of the Earth described it as an “appalling decision” that will damage the fight against the climate crisis, while not replacing Russian coal.

Supporters of the coking coal mine on the edge of Whitehaven in Cumbria say it will create about 500 jobs.

The department said Mr Gove “agreed to grant planning permission for a new metallurgical coal mine in Cumbria as recommended by the independent planning inspector”.

“This coal will be used for the production of steel and would otherwise need to be imported. It will not be used for power generation,” it read.

“The mine seeks to be net zero in its operations and is expected to contribute to local employment and the wider economy.”

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Labour shadow climate secretary Ed Miliband said it was “no solution to the energy crisis, it does not offer secure, long-term jobs, and it marks this government giving up on all pretence of climate leadership”.

“Waving this mine through further cements Rishi Sunak as an out-of-date fossil fuel PM in a renewable age,” Mr Miliband said.

The move could also anger Conservative MPs who opposed the mine.

“Approving this mine is a misguided and deeply damaging mistake that flies in the face of all the evidence," said Friends of the Earth campaigner Tony Bosworth.

“The mine isn’t needed, will add to global climate emissions and won’t replace Russian coal.”

The planning inspector who recommended the site’s approval wrote that the development would “have an overall neutral effect on climate change”.

Stephen Normington said the amount of coal used in making steel would be “broadly the same” with or without the mine.

“Consequently, I consider that the proposed development would have a broadly neutral effect on the global release of GHG [greenhouse gas] from coal used in steel-making, whether or not end-use emissions are taken into account,” Mr Normington wrote.

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The Liberal Democrats criticised the government for approving the “deeply damaging coal mine”.

"This decision cancels out all the progress Britain has made on renewable energy," environment spokesman Tim Farron said.

"The government’s environmental credentials are yet again left in tatters,.

“Rishi Sunak’s government is trashing our country’s reputation as a world lead in cutting emissions.

"He does not represent the views of the public who want green, clean projects.”

Updated: December 08, 2022, 5:51 AM