Backing for new deep coal mine development sparks row

  • Video report by ITV News Science Editor Tom Clarke

Plans to develop a deep coal mine, creating hundreds of new jobs, have sparked controversy.

Cumbria County Council has granted planning approval to West Cumbria Mining (WCM) for a new pit near Whitehaven, to be known as Woodhouse Colliery.

It will be the first deep mine to open in the UK for more than 30 years.

The company plans to extract about 2.5 million tonnes of coal a year to supply UK and European steel-making coal plants, which currently import about 45 million tonnes a year from the USA, Canada, Russia and Australia.

The mine is next to the site of the former colliery in Whitehaven that shut three decades ago.

Mark Kirkbride, chief executive of West Cumbria Mining, said: “This is a very important milestone in our journey to develop a world class mine in Cumbria and is the culmination of five years of hard work and determination by the WCM team to realise our vision.

“Woodhouse Colliery will bring significant local benefits to Whitehaven, Copeland and Cumbria in terms of jobs and investment.”

Work on the site is expected to begin before the end of the year, with coal production starting around two years after that.

But John Sauven, executive director at Greenpeace UK, said: “It has been barely a week since over a million children were out on the streets across the world demanding the adults started behaving like grown-ups and acting to halt a complete climate breakdown."

Hundreds of thousands of students across the world took part in a classroom strike to demand action on climate change last week. Credit: Gareth Fuller/PA

“It is appalling to see that when faced with the choice of helping to secure their future, the local councillors in Cumbria chose to do exactly the opposite," added Mr Sauven.

We are in a climate emergency and this decision smacks of terrible short-sightedness.

“We simply cannot afford to burn the coal we have without frying the planet, let alone dig up more. We need local councillors to support a radical shift to a renewable energy future to secure jobs and a healthy environment.”