UK approves first underground coal mining project in more than three decades

UK approves first coal mining project in more than three decades

Photo: iStock


December 8, 2022






December 8, 2022





Environmentalists said they would try to overturn the government’s approval for the opening of a deep coal mine, which would be the first in the UK in over 30 years. The proposed Woodhouse Colliery facility is intended to produce coking coal, mostly for exports.

The United Kingdom Climate Change Committee (CCC), the government’s independent advisory body, joined experts and activists in criticizing Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove for giving the green light for underground coal exploitation near Whitehaven in Cumbria. West Cumbria Mining, which launched the project in 2014, wants to produce as much as 3.1 million tons of coking coal per year.

Environmental organizations are preparing to take the case to court with the argument that the operation of the Woodhouse Colliery facility would prevent Britain from achieving its climate goals, which is a legal obligation. It would be the first underground coal mine in more than three decades.

At least 85% of coal would be exported

Coking or metallurgical coal is used in the production of steel. Government officials argue that huge amounts of the metal are necessary to cut net greenhouse gas emissions to zero, for instance in the deployment of wind power plants. However, the project is intended mostly for exports, with 85% of the output.

The only two steelmakers in Britain are already working on low-carbon solutions

Moreover, British Steel and Tata, the only steelmakers in the country, are both already working on low-carbon solutions. In the sector, green hydrogen is one of the possible replacements for coke, which is made from coking coal.

Scheduled shutdown is just one year before UK’s climate neutrality deadline

The UK is officially aiming to meet the goal in 2050 and become climate neutral, while the planned deep mine is scheduled to be run until 2049. The Woodhouse Colliery site in northwest England is on the coast – the fossil fuel would be dug up from beneath the Irish Sea.

The Cumbria County Council gave the project the go-ahead already in 2020, but later blocked it and passed the buck to higher authorities.

The country pledged to end the production of electricity from coal by the beginning of October 2024.

Of note, a wind farm in Germany is being dismantled to make room for the expansion of a coal mine.

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