Support for green steel industry highlights 'ridiculous folly' of Cumbrian coal mine decision

Campaigners opposed to the new coal mine in Cumbria have reacted to the government’s recent move to help the UK steel industry become greener.

The decision casts further doubts on the viability of the recently approved new coal mine near Whitehaven, says Friends of the Earth.

Friends of the Earth energy campaigner, Tony Bosworth, said: "The UK steel industry is vital for our future, but the only way to ensure we have a competitive and thriving steel sector is for it to go green and move away from coal, as its European competitors are doing.

"The government is right to support the steel industry in this essential transformation – but it again shows the ridiculous folly of approving a new mine to provide coal for the steel industry just last month."

Ministers are reportedly in the process of offering around £600 million to help both British Steel and Tata Steel switch away from coal-fired blast furnaces.

Last month Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove gave government approval to the controversial new mine in Cumbria to provide coal for the steel industry, saying "we will need coking coal for decades to come".

Earlier this month Friends of the Earth and South Lakes Action on Climate Change announced they were taking legal action against the government over its decision to approve the mine.

A key argument is how future carbon emissions from the mine were considered by Mr Gove, who made the final decision after a public inquiry concluded 15 months ago.

Maggie Mason from South Lakes Action on Climate Change, said: "Mr Gove acknowledged that there would be 220 million tonnes of greenhouse gases released when this coal is burned.

"But he came to a really contradictory conclusion, saying that the mine would be climate neutral.

"Now in order to come to such a strange conclusion, we think he's applied errors in the law."

Many people in Whitehaven believe the decision to approve the new coal mine - which would be the UK’s first new mine in more than 30 years - was the correct one, with West Cumbria Mining promising five hundred jobs created in an economically deprived area.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, said: "The Government recognises the vital role that steel plays within the UK economy, supporting local jobs and economic growth and is committed to securing a sustainable and competitive future for the UK steel sector.

"The Business Secretary considers the success of the steel sector a priority and continues to work closely with industry to achieve this."

South Lakes Action on Climate Change have raised more than £30,000 so far towards the costs of their latest legal challenge but says they may need more than double that amount.

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