Green NGOs urge Michael Gove to reject Whitehaven mine

Cumbrian coal would not replace Russian imports, say environmental groups
  Published:  26 Apr 2022    |      2 minute read

The chief executives of 14 of the UK’s leading environmental organisations have written to Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, urging him to reject plans for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The call comes following recent speculation that Michael Gove is supportive of the new mine and intends to approve it for development. But the groups contend that Cumbrian coal would not replace that currently imported from Russia.

Mr Gove is currently considering a planning inspector’s report and recommendation on the controversial mine following last September’s Public Inquiry. A final decision is due on or before 7 July.

In the letter to Mr Gove, the green groups which include Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, RSPB and Green Alliance say there are three key reasons to reject planning permission for the mine which would produce coking coal for use in steelmaking:

  • It would significantly increase carbon emissions and make it harder to secure the global agreement needed to prevent average global temperatures from rising 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.
  • There is considerable doubt that there is a long or even medium-term demand for the coal that would be produced by the mine as steel manufacturers move away from coal.
  • Opening a new coal mine is not the way to create long-term jobs as part of a sustainable levelling up agenda.

The letter also dismisses suggestions that coal from the mine would replace Russian imports. Steelmakers use a blend of coal from different sources and West Cumbria Mining has stated clearly that its coal is similar to and would replace coal from the US - not from Russia.

According to the Local Government Association, there is potential for over 6000 green jobs in Cumbria by 2030, including nearly 600 in West Cumbria, in areas such as energy efficiency, solar power, offshore wind and low carbon heating. The organisations are calling on Mr Gove to work with colleagues to provide green jobs in West Cumbria and a green future for the UK steel industry.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said:

“Only a few weeks ago, the UN Secretary General said that investing in new fossil fuel sources was ‘moral and economic madness’. Michael Gove must heed these words and reject the Cumbria coal mine: it will add to the climate crisis and the market for its product is fast disappearing as the steel industry moves to greener production.

"Mr Gove must also ignore the misguided claims that coal from the Cumbria mine will replace Russian imports – even the mine’s developers don’t think that.

“Areas such as West Cumbria should be at the forefront of the green economy we so urgently need. An energy policy based on energy efficiency and cheap homegrown renewables could provide hundreds of jobs for local people.”

ENDS

Notes

  1. Organisations that have signed the letter are: Client Earth, Community Energy England, CPRE, Environmental Justice Foundation, E3G, Friends of the Earth, Green Alliance, Greenpeace, MCS Charitable Foundation, Oxfam GB, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, Wildlife & Countryside Link and Woodland Trust.
  2. A copy of the letter can be viewed here.
  3. Whitehaven coal mine decision expected by July | BBC news: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-61061638
  4. About Friends of the Earth: Friends of the Earth is an international community dedicated to the protection of the natural world and the wellbeing of everyone in it. We bring together more than two million people in 75 countries, combining people power all over the world to transform local actions into global impact. For more information visit: https://friendsoftheearth.uk/ follow us at @friends_earth, or like our Facebook page.