UK's Banks Mining wins challenge to government rejection of new coal mine

LONDON – Britain's Banks Mining has won a high court challenge to the government's decision to reject its application to develop a new coal mine in northeastern England, the company said on Friday.

Northumberland County Council agreed last year that the mine's developer, Banks Mining, a division of The Banks Group, could extract 3 million tonnes of coal by cutting an open cast, or surface, mine near Druridge Bay, Highthorn.The application will now go back to the government, and the current local government minister James Brokenshire, for further consideration.

But the local government minister at the time, Sajid Javid, rejected the application in March following a public inquiry, saying the proposal could hamper the country's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and curb climate change.

Banks Mining challenged the decision and on Friday said it had been successful in Britain's High Court, which quashed the government's rejection of the plan on the grounds that the minister did not provide adequate evidence for his decision.

"Banks Mining is urging the present incumbent… to permit the company to progress its significant investment and job creation plans as soon as possible," the company said in a statement.

Environmentalists had criticised the plans, saying the mine would destroy an area of natural beauty and that extracting more coal is at odds with international pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions under the Paris climate pact.

Supporters of the project had said it could bring much-needed jobs to the region, and help to reduce Britain's reliance on coal imports.

Banks said the project would create at least 100 well-paid full-time jobs.

Britain plans to close all coal-fired power stations by 2025 unless they are fitted with technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, as part of efforts to cut greenhouse gases by 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050.

Britain's energy mister Claire Perry has also spearheaded an international campaign to phase out coal fired power plants across the globe.

(By Susanna Twidale; Editing by Jan Harvey)