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First new UK deep coal mine in decades to be sunk in Cumbria

19 March 2019

Britain’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years on the coast near Whitehaven, has been given the go-ahead by Cumbria county council. The £165m Woodhouse colliery, to be developed by West Cumbria Mining, will process 2.5m tonnes of coking coal a year for the UK and European steel industry, replacing imports from the US, Canada, Russia and Columbia.

Woodhouse colliery when operational - Image: West Cumbria Mining
Woodhouse colliery when operational - Image: West Cumbria Mining

Environmental groups and climate change campaigners said the decision would harm the UK’s efforts to reduce CO2 emissions. To mitigate some of the impact of the plant on the environment, the owners have agreed a deal for a 50 megawatt solar farm nearby to provide about a third of the project’s energy needs.

The mine is due to begin production in about two years’ time, subject to environmental certificates, and is expected to employ 500 people, with an estimated 2,000 more jobs created in its supply chain.

Deep coal mining in the UK, a sector that employed more than one million people across several thousand pits a century ago, ceased in December 2015 with the closure of Kellingley colliery in North Yorkshire.

Announcing the approval of Woodhouse colliery, councillor Geoff Cook, the chair of Cumbria county council’s development control and regulation committee, said it was not an easy decision and there would be mixed views. “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,” he said. “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.”

It is largely thanks to a reduction in coal fired power output that the UK has seen its greenhouse gas emissions fall by almost 40% since 1990, faster than any other major developed country, while the economy has simultaneously grown. The UK is targeting an end to coal-powered electricity generation by 2025.


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