UK’s first new deep coal mine in 30 years approved

The mine will create 500 jobs and end the country’s dependence on the US for imports of steelmaking coal. (Image courtesy of West Cumbria Mining.)

Plans to build the U.K.’s first new deep coal mine in three decades were approved on Friday, in a move that threatens to undermine the government’s pledge to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century.

West Cumbria Mining’s Woodhouse Colliery project, in north-west England, has faced steep opposition from environmental groups urging the government to intervene and block it. They claim the new coal mine would emit 8 million tonnes of carbon annually.

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 a judicial review last year.

Under the approved plans, it will close in 2049, one year before the country must have net zero emissions.

“Net-zero” goal questioned

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.