Cumbria mine: professor says coal market makes project unviable

The hearing into a proposed mine in west Cumbria continued today. Credit: West Cumbria Mining

An inquiry into plans to open a new coal mine in west Cumbria has heard from an academic who argued that the market for coal is too unstable to make the mine viable.

Professor Paul Ekins OBE, from the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources and University College London, spoke at the inquiry, which is being held online.

West Cumbria Mining (WCM) has plans to open a mine for coking coal - used to make steel - near Whitehaven.

This development was first proposed in 2014 and has been given planning approval by Cumbria County Council three times. Earlier this year, the Government announced that it was calling in the decision for a public inquiry.

Calling Professor Ekins as a witness, Estelle Dehon legal representative for South Lakes Action on Climate Change said: "The developer, WCM says as a point against you that coking coal is a derived demand and they say that's a reason why you're economic analysis falls over. So it would be quite surprising to them to hear you say that it is a derived demand. So can you explain why you're economic analysis remains even though we're dealing here with something that is a derived demand?"

Professor Ekins said:

Supporters of the mine including Copeland MP Trudy Harrison believe a demand for steel will always exist in the development of net zero Carbon projects such as the Small Modular Reactors planned for Moorside.

They say that British coking coal for the production of British steel is kinder to the environment, as it is not being shipped from elsewhere.

The inquiry continues and can be watched online here.

Communities, housing and Local Government secretary Robert Jenrick has been replaced in the Cabinet by Michael Gove in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's reshuffle.

It was Jenrick's decision to call-in West Cumbria Mining's application for a coking coal mine. Evidence given by all parties for and against the mine will now be presented to Michael Gove who will make the final decision on if it should go ahead.

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