UK coal mine decision delayed as politics intervenes

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. (Image by Number 10, Flickr).

A UK government decision on whether to allow a new coal mine in Cumbria, northwest England, was delayed for up to six weeks after Michael Gove, the minister responsible for the relevant department,was sacked by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson himself said on Thursday he was resigning, bowing to a barrage of calls to quit from ministerial colleagues and lawmakers.

Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities,had been expected to announce on Thursday whether the mine, being developed by privately owned West Cumbria Mining and which seeks to extract coking coal for the steel industry, should go ahead.

“Regrettably, Planning Ministers will not be in a position to publish a decision by this date,” Gove’s former department said in a letter to environmental group Friends of the Earth seen by Reuters.

Britain has a climate target to reach net zero emissions by 2050, and the government’s independent climate advisers, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), had warned allowing the mine would make reaching this target more difficult.

West Cumbria Mining has said the project will have local benefits and create around 500 jobs.

A decision on the mine is now expected to be made on or before August 17, the department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said in another letter to Friends of the Earth.

FoE coal campaigner Tony Bosworth said new coal projects could not be justified.

“All the evidence is stacked against the mine: it’ll increase carbon emissions and its market is already declining as steelmakers move to greener production,” he said in a statement.

(By Susanna Twidale; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and John Stonestreet)

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