Protesters urge end to new coal mine plans at Whitehaven in Cumbria

  • Report by Tim Backshall

Protesters have demanded an end to plans for a coal mine in Cumbria after the Government signed off on the project.

About 60 demonstrators gathered at the Marchon site on Wilson Pit Road, Whitehaven, on Saturday morning, where they urged the Government to create green energy jobs, rather than fossil fuel jobs, in the area.

The underground mine near Whitehaven is expected to extract nearly 2.8 million tonnes of coal per year for use in steel making, rather than power generation, and backers say it will create around 500 jobs for the area.

But opponents warn it will create more greenhouse gas emissions and say it is hypocritical amid UK efforts to show climate leadership and to urge the world to give up coal.

Protesters on Saturday chanted: "Coal, don't do it" and "Leave it in the ground", while a choir sang songs including What A Wonderful World.

The group pinned banners on the fence of the site, reading: "Fossil Fools" and "Coal out renewables in".

Some also carried placards with messages like: "Fossil fuels must stay in the ground"; "No new coal"; and "Say no to West Cumbria mining".

Protesters see the proposals as a step back. Advocates say they provide fuel security. Credit: PA

Estelle Worthington, Friends of the Earth's north-west regional campaigner, said: "The Government's decision to give the go-ahead to this polluting and unnecessary coal mine has been met with widespread opposition - locally, nationally, and internationally.

"Local people have come together today to say West Cumbria deserves far better than this.

"The Government should be building a clean, modern and competitive economy fit for the challenges of the 21st century, not championing polluting industries of the past."

Hazel Graham, climate jobs campaigner, said: "There have been attempts to divide us and attempts to patronise us when West Cumbria Mining explain why we need this coal mine.

"They are trying to pit the need for jobs for our generation against the need for our kids to have a living planet."

She added: "We are demanding insulation and warmer homes and affordable public transport and secure, unionised climate jobs in their thousands.

"So they have to try to divide us because they see that throwing us mouldy crumbs of a small number of jobs in a dying industry won't keep us quiet when what we need is thousands of secure, long-term, well-paid climate jobs."

Business and engineering experts have questioned the investment in an "1850s technology" to supply coal for steel manufacture as the sector looks to shift to cleaner production methods.

They warned it sent the wrong signal to industry about commitments to cut emissions to net zero by 2050.

Communities Secretary Michael Gove has acknowledged the scheme may be subject to a legal challenge, but insisted it would be a net-zero project and claimed it "would to some extent support the transition to net zero".

A Department for Levelling Up spokesperson said: "This coal will be used for the production of steel and would otherwise need to be imported. It will not be used for power generation.

"The mine seeks to be net zero in its operations and is expected to contribute to local employment and the wider economy."

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