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Progress for plans to bring coal mining back to West Cumbria

One of the latest designs on display. Credit: ITV Border

Report by Greg Hoare

Plans to bring more than 500 mining jobs to west Cumbria are moving forwards.

West Cumbria Mining intends to create a coking coal mine off the coast near Whitehaven.

The company says there is more than 750 million tonnes of coal across the area, and it plans to produce two to three million tonnes of hard to semi-soft coking coal a year.

The coal would be sold to steel companies in the UK and Europe, and the man behind the plan, CEO Mark Kirkbride, says a recent steel industry slump shouldn't affect their plans.

If you look at overall steel demand and requirements, there's a steady increase, Europe is still one of the biggest steel makers in the world, and that's clearly our main market.

We still have Port Talbot and Scunthorpe in the UK as well, so we see that there's a balance, but it's a very unusual product.

Because of that it attracts a premium, so we see a long term, positive market.

– Mark Kirkbride, CEO West Cumbria Mining
The company says the coastline is a rich source of coal. Credit: West Cumbria Mining

West Cumbria Mining has completed a pre-feasibility study into the project, which it calls a "major milestone".

The company's plans have been on display at the site of the former Haig Museum in Whitehaven.

ITV Border spoke to local people who were scrutinising the designs; some were concerned about the environmental impact, as well as the impact on the local landscape.

Others were dubious about the amount of coal in the area, which West Cumbria Mining says it plans to extract.

But for many more, the prospect of a major new employer in an area which, in recent years, has been reliant on Sellafield Ltd, is seen as a positive thing.

I think it's going to be brilliant, the way they're going to develop this, for my grandkids.

We need to get work back into the town - this town is dying on its feet.

It will be a long term benefit, even for when my grandkids get married and have children, it'll keep young, local people in the area.

– Ronnie Harker
Mining was once an important part of Cumbria's economy. Credit: PA

West Cumbria has a rich history when it comes to mining.

The company behind this attempt to rekindle the industry intends to put a planning application in early next year.

If that's successful, they hope to be mining by 2019.