UK’s First New Coal Mine in 30 Years
Energy has been one of the hottest topics of the last couple of years. Whether it’s our rapidly rising gas and electricity prices, the supply issues that have resulted from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, or the best way to meet our future energy needs while also caring for the planet, it’s a subject that just can’t be avoided.
One recent development that few would have seen coming was the confirmation in December 2022 of what will be – if it gets through the many legal challenges it’s likely to be facing – the first new coal mine in the UK for 30 years.
Planning approval for the mine in Whitehaven, Cumbria, was first given by Cumbria County Council to West Cumbria Mining (WCM) about three years ago. That decision has now been ratified by Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove. The development is expected to cost in the region of £165 million, create some 500 jobs and produce about 2.8 million tonnes of coking coal a year.
The sale of traditional house coal for domestic heating will be banned in the UK from May 1st 2023, so the coal extracted will mostly be used in the steelmaking industry, and will also mainly be for export. Britain’s only two steel producers still using coal, Tata and British Steel, are planning to cut back dramatically on its use such that they will initially use less than 10% of the mine’s output, and by the mid-2030s none at all.
Despite this, in recommending approval for the coal mine, the Planning Inspectorate suggested that the mine would represent an “overall neutral effect on climate change”, as the steel the coal will help produce would otherwise have needed to be imported.
Another reason given for how the mine may not necessarily impact the UK’s climate commitments is that production at the mine will cease in 2049, a year before the 2050 deadline for net zero emissions.
Local reaction has been mixed. While many consider the mine a backwards step on the road to net zero, a combination of the local jobs the mine will bring and the new technologies expected to be used there means there is some local support. ‘We Support West Cumbria Mining’, a Facebook group with close to 2000 members, is keen to promote its “positive environmental solution to accessing coking coal from our shores as opposed to from abroad”.
At KG Smith & Son, we specialise in supplying a wide range of smokeless coals, wood briquettes and other domestic heating fuels that are helping to keep Britain’s homes warm. With fast delivery available on all our smokeless fuel packages, plus free delivery also available on larger orders, it’s no wonder we’re the UK’s leading independent coal supplier.