Council to consider changes to planning application following highly critical report that argued a new coal mine in the UK was not compatible with the country's climate goals
A proposed coal mine project in Cumbria that was controversially greenlit by the government last year is set to undergo further scrunity, after the County Council revealed it would no longer rely on a previous decision made in support of the project.
The mine would be the first deep coal mine in the UK in approximately 30 years and could produce up to 2.1 million tonnes of metallurgical coal annually for 50 years.
Deep coal mining, once the backbone of the UK's economy, ended in December 2015 when the Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire was shuttered.
Cumbria County Council gave permission to West Cumbria Mining to go ahead with the £165m deep coal mine more than a year ago. But in February, the High Court granted permission to local campaign group Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole for a judicial review of the council's decision to grant planning permission, following a report from the Green Alliance that argued the proposed mine was incompatible with the UK's climate ambitions.
That challenge was dropped last month, after West Cumbria Mining updated its plans to ensure that only metallurgical coal, used for steelmaking, would be exported from the mine. Previously, the miner intended for 15 per cent of the mine's output to be middlings coal, a lower quality material largely used for power generation, brick manufacturing units, and cement plants.
Rebecca Wills, author of the Green Alliance report, noted last week on Twitter that the latest developments were "good but bad". "Good because it no longer has planning permission," she wrote. "Bad because - under pressure from a lot of media coverage - they've abandoned the worst aspects of the previous application, eg. the claim the mine is, ahem, 'carbon neutral'."
West Cumbria Mining contends the proposed mine is necessary to meet demand for coal to produce metallurgical steel, and that a domestic mine is more carbon efficient than importing coal for steelmaking from other countries.
In a statement published to its website on 21 May, the company said: "West Cumbria Mining is extremely disappointed by the delays which have been caused by this now abandoned legal challenge. It regrets the delay to important new job creation in west Cumbria, to new investment and to our plans to deliver the project. WCM now looks forward to progressing its plans at this important time with so much economic uncertainty across the UK. Further, the longer the WCM project is delayed then the more metallurgical coal will be imported from the USA and around the world to supply British and European steelmakers."
The Council's planning panel is now set to consider the revised application on July 8.
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