Decision on coal mine close to UK reserve ‘could spell end’ to industry

An imminent decision on whether to allow a new surface coal mine close to a nature reserve in North East England, could mark the beginning of a definite end to the industry in the UK, environmentalists claim.

Green groups are fighting Banks Group’s plans to go ahead with its Highthorn project, a three million tonne (Mt) opencast mine that will operate for seven years from an area of 250 hectares at Druridge Bay Park, between Widdrington and Cresswell, local station Eagle Radio reports.

The proposed coal has attracted opposition from local residents, Friends of the Earth and the Northumberland Wildlife Trust (NWT), which have lodged multiple objections based on its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, water and wildlife.

Banks Group’s Highthorn coal mine would provide about 100 jobs during its five-year operation, with no mining activity planned within 500 metres of Druridge Bay beach.

They have already suffered a major defeat, with Northumberland County Council backing the project in July. But the campaigners managed to get the Government to order a public inquiry, which results will be weighed in a ministers’ decision to be announced next year.

The opponents to the mine say such ruling will show the Government's real commitment to environmental issues.

The company, in turn, says the Highthorn Surface Mine would create jobs and investment. After the mine is closed, Banks Group will restore the area, with about $59 million (£48m) going into local suppliers.

The miner says extraction would last five years and then two years would be spent restoring the site.

According the Coal Authority, there currently are 13 working surface mines in England.

Prices for both thermal and coking coal have been skyrocketing as of late. Seaborne prices for coal used in power generation has nearly doubled in 2016 exchanging hands for $97.55 a tonne on Monday, up 27% just since the start of October. The last time Newcastle export prices traded in triple digits was May 2012.

Metallurgical coal's rise has been more dramatic and trading at $245.50 a tonne on Monday, the steelmaking raw material is up 15% so far in October.