UK Gov’t temporarily halts coal mine approval

Woodhouse Colliery would be the UK’s first new deep coal mine in three decades. (Image courtesy of West Cumbria Mining)

The UK government has temporarily blocked the development of what would be the nation’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years, while it decides whether to call in the application or hand the decision back to local authorities in Cumbria, in the northwest of England.

Cumbria County councillors voted 12-3 to grant planning permission to West Cumbria Mining’s Woodhouse Colliery project on Friday. 

Environmental groups condemned the approval, urging the government to intervene and block it. They claim the new coal mine would emit 8 million tonnes of carbon annually, which threatens to undermine the UK’s commitment to reach net zero emissions by 2050.

Authorities are mulling whether to call in the application or hand the decision back to local authorities in Cumbria.

Development of the Woodhouse Colliery was approved last year but it was later delayed by the High Court, which granted permission to a local campaign group to pursue a judicial review of the project.

The planned mine is expected to produce as much as 3.1 million tonnes of metallurgical coal a year, mainly from under the seabed. Processed coal would then be transferred by underground conveyor to trains using a new loading facility and sidings.

Woodhouse Colliery is scheduled to begin production in the second half of 2021, creating 500 jobs. It had originally been slated to run for 70 years, but West Cumbria Mining had to resubmit plans following the judicial review. The mine is now expected to close in 2049, one year before the country must have net zero emissions.

Growing skepticism

Most in the UK are skeptical about achieving the net zero target, according to a survey by the centre-right think tank Bright Blue published Friday.

The report found that 58% of the public believe that it is unlikely that the target will be achieved even by 2050.

The UK is set to host the COP26 round of UN global climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, in November 2021. The event is considered the most important climate negotiations since the Paris agreement in 2015.

England’s last operating deep coal mine, Kellingley, closed in 2015 and the country’s last coal mine stopped operating this year.