Verdict on approval of coal mine in Cumbria is delayed until November

  • July 7 was deadline for Government decision on project, on Whitehaven outskirts
  • It was moved to August 17 after Boris Johnson resigned and now is November 8
  • Second delay due to officials ‘not yet in a position’ to provide advice to ministers
  • Green groups say it would increase emissions but others say it would create jobs

A decision on whether to approve a controversial new coal mine in Cumbria has been delayed for a second time.

A deadline for the Government to decide on the project, on the outskirts of Whitehaven, had been set for July 7, but was pushed back to August 17 after Boris Johnson resigned.

Now the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities has said a decision will be made by November 8, because officials are ‘not yet in a position’ to provide advice to ministers. It would be the first deep coal mine for more than three decades and would extract coking coal to make steel. Green groups say it would increase carbon dioxide emissions, but supporters say it would create jobs and reduce imports.

An aerial view in October of the site of the proposed new coal mine near the Cumbrian town of Whitehaven. A decision on whether to approve the controversial mine has now been delayed for a second time

In October 2020, Cumbria County Council approved the mine’s operation until 2049, but suspended its decision four months later when the Government’s Climate Change Committee said the use of coking coal in steel making should be curtailed by 2035.

Among the mine’s chief proponents is Mike Starkie, the Conservative mayor of Copeland borough, which includes Whitehaven, who said the latest delay was ‘outrageous and totally unacceptable’.

‘To now move the goalposts to November is appalling and there is no justification whatsoever,’ he added.

Environmentalists have also argued that demand for coking coal is already declining in the UK and Europe as steelmakers increasingly switch to less carbon-intensive methods.

Among the mine’s chief proponents is Mike Starkie, the Conservative mayor of Copeland borough, which includes Whitehaven, who said the latest delay was ‘outrageous and totally unacceptable’

People demonstrate against the proposed Cumbrian coal mine outside the Home Office in London in September. Green groups say the coal mine would increase carbon dioxide emissions. Environmentalists have also argued that demand for coking coal is already declining in the UK and Europe as steelmakers increasingly switch to less carbon-intensive methods

Victoria Marsom, from campaign group Friends of the Earth, said: ‘The UK and European market for coking coal is set to rapidly diminish as manufacturers switch to greener steel.

She added: ‘The case against this coalmine is overwhelming regardless of how many times the decision is delayed.’

The battle over the future of the Cumbrian coal mine comes as the government increasingly moves to cut carbon emissions in a bid to get the UK to net zero by 2050.

But the efforts have caused concern about the future of the British steel industry, with Tata Steel, which owns the Port Talbot steelworks in Wales, currently pressuring for £1.5 billion in taxpayer funding to support its moves to greener steelmaking processes and furnaces.

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