URGENT REQUEST Object to West Cumbria Mining Planning Application Now!

14 February 2018

We have recently had an URGENT REQUEST from Radiation Free Lakeland, on behalf of the Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole campaign,for people to make objections to West Cumbria Mining’s application to develop the UK’s first deep-sea coal mine for 30 years - just off St. Bees!! In other words, just a short distance away from Sellafield!!

Sellafield view from St Bees 

Fig 1. Sellafield viewed from St Bees...a stone's throw away from the proposed mine.

 As The Ecologist magazine said recently:

"The potential for earth tremors and quakes resulting from mining is well known. Even if the tremors were small, that is too big a risk to take in the vicinity of Sellafield." 

This is an Urgent Request because, ideally, letters and/or emails need to be in BEFORE 19 February - although it’s possible objections might still be noted until 7 March, when the crucial meeting takes place.

Practical details:

Send Emails to:


In the Subject box put: 

Wood House Colliery Application No: 4/17/9007

West Cumbria Mining [WCM]

If you have time, please also write to the Development Control Committee, CCC, to tell them your objections! They will be making the decision 


Letters to be in before 19th February to stand a good chance of being included in the report to Council – but you can object up until the meeting on the 7th March

Below is a list of 7 areas on which objections can be made, provided by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole.

Please feel free to amend and or adapt - or just generally use these as a starting point for your own objection.  It doesn't need to be long – just a sentence or two would do to let Cumbria County Council know that you oppose the plan. 

Make sure you end your email/letter with something like the following:

‘I urge Cumbria County Council to turn down this application which presents a danger to us all on many different levels.’

REMEMBER: every letter and/or email of objection is a step nearer to stopping the plan! 

You can find out more about the ‘Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole’ campaign via this link:


And you can find out more about Radiation Free Lakeland via these links:



Reasons to Refuse this application include:

•             Hydrology Impact

•             Wildlife Impact

•             Seabed Subsidence

•             Methane Emissions

•             Carbon Emissions

•             Health Impacts

•             Proximity to Sellafield


River Ehen

Fig 2. The River Ehen runs alongside the Irish Sea.

West Cumbria’s domestic fresh water supplies are already stressed with the halting of abstraction from Ennerdale to protect the river Ehen (Sellafield will continue to abstract from the Ehen for cooling and processes).

People in West Cumbria have experienced problems with borehole water being added to their supply. The vast discharge of water required to de-water the old existing and newly-opened mines would inevitably impact on West Cumbria’s fresh water supply.

“The history of contamination of watercourses in the areas raises concerns for some local residents in relation to the impact of the development on the complex hydrology of the area.” Colourful Coast Partnership. This flies in the face of NPPF and Cumbria County Council’s own Minerals and Waste Plan to have regard for provide for public health (2.25).


Black Guillamots

       Fig 3. St Bees supports England's only breeding black guillemots.

“We are particularly concerned in regard to the potential impact upon the wider marine and coastal environment of the discharge of water into the sea, which has been pumped from the flooded anhydrite mine.”    National Trust

“The application site is in proximity (Solway Firth 1.5km) to a European designated site (also commonly referred to as Natura 2000 sites), and therefore has the potential to affect its interest features.”    Natural England

“The impact of any level of subsidence upon the terrestrial or marine heritage assets and designated sites and landscapes could be significant and permanent, therefore having a detrimental impact.”  Colourful Coast Partnership

“Our position is to object to the proposed development on the grounds of the adverse impact on groundwater, surface water and biodiversity.”   Environment Agency

St Bees “supports England’s only breeding black guillemot – which are small in number and already vulnerable to stochastic events.” The development has the potential to have an adverse effect upon the St Bees Head SSSI through disturbance to breeding birds during excavations and coal processing.”   RSPB

It is clear from objections by the Colourful Coast Partnership and those quoted above (this is just a selection, there are many more!) that Biodiversity would be adversely impacted on by this development. This runs counter to NPPF policies and Cumbria County Councils own Minerals and Waste Local Plan (2.25)


As previously noted, seabed subsidence is an issue that would have environmental consequences anywhere. Close to Sellafield, the environmental consequences of seabed subsidence have far wider implications. This includes the possible re-suspension of many decades’ worth of radionuclides that are currently on the Irish Sea bed as a result of Sellafield reprocessing.

Long-lived radionuclides (like plutonium or americium 241 nuclides) are still accumulating in the mud at the bottom of the Irish Sea. Events like storm surges or seabed subsidence churn this up. Re-suspended particles make their way to the beaches of Cumbria and beyond. This is intolerable and is already an issue for beaches in West Cumbria with radioactive particles being routinely found by the industry’s own beach monitoring system (which stops in the school holidays).

Monitoring for radioactive particles

Fig 4. Monitoring West Cumbrian beaches for radioactive particles - thousands are found and retrieved.

Knowingly creating the conditions for seabed subsidence from undersea coal mining runs counter to Cumbria County Council’s own policy of “risk reduction” regarding radioactive wastes.   The Irish Sea Bed should be treated with care as it acts as a saucer-like container for the many decades’ worth of radioactive wastes which are best left undisturbed.


The fossil fuel industry’s methane emissions are far higher than previously thought. The famous landmark “candlestick” in Whitehaven is an air vent for the “most fiery pit in the kingdom.”   “Fiery” because this area is methane rich.

Last year the applicants West Cumbria Mining accidently hit a methane seam off St Bees and just five miles from Sellafield while carrying out exploratory drilling. "Local authorities, fire rescue, police and the Environment Agency were all informed."  An explosion was averted this time. Cumbria County Council have a duty of care to make sure there is no next time.


Cumbria County Council are the custodians of hundreds of millions of tonnes of CO2 - currently safety bound up in this coal under the Irish Sea. The developers are pushing the “need” to mine this coal for steel making. Why? There is a race on to develop ever more processes of steel making which do not involve the burning of fossil fuels. Sweden seems to be at the forefront

Worldwide, the steel industry is well aware of the need to rapidly de-carbonise. This is already happening, with ever more steel recycling. For new steel production, there are ultra-low carbon methods of steelmaking in development and soon to be deployed - whether this is based on biomass, hydrogen or electrolysis.

This is happening now, with some of the world’s largest iron ore producers (Brazil, China) also having the greatest potential for and commitment to renewable energy. There is no case for opening a new coal mine in Cumbria.   Cumbria County Council will have a case to answer should they facilitate the opening of this, the first deep coal mine in the UK for 30 years.


The old Marchon Chemical plant - and Anhydrite mine that fed it - feature in the WCM application. We note that the anhydrite mine would need to be de-watered. This would be reckless, given that previous operations are still having a “significant” impact.

“There is also a significant radiological impact due to the legacy of past discharges of radionuclides from non-nuclear industrial activity that also occur naturally in the environment. This includes radionuclides discharged from the former phosphate processing plant at Whitehaven, and so monitoring is carried out near this site.” Radioactivity in Food and the Environment 2016. ( https://www.food.gov.uk/sites/default/files/report2016_0.pdf )

This direct assault on health is additional to well-documented climate change health impacts, and the intolerable danger that this mine would represent to the safe stewardship of Sellafield.


B30 pond at Sellafield

Fig 5 The B30 pond loaded with spent fuel rods.

Though some people may not necessarily see the issue of proximity to Sellafield as the main objection to the mine, a recent article in The Ecologist magazine highlighted the proposed mine's close proximity to this dangerous stockpile of plutonium:

"The potential for earth tremors and quakes resulting from mining is well known. Even if the tremors were small, that is too big a risk to take in the vicinity of Sellafield."

High intensity and liquefaction phenomena, like that experienced at Christchurch in New Zealand, are usually associated only with relatively large magnitude earthquakes. An earthquake in 1865 in the northwest of England (Rampside) suggests that a sufficiently shallow small event can also produce liquefaction.

The Ecologist reported that: “Especially serious are the ~20 large holding tanks at Sellafield containing thousands of litres of extremely radiotoxic fission products." Discussing these tanks, the previous management consortium, Nuclear Management Partners, stated in 2012: "There is a mass of very hazardous [nuclear] waste onsite in storage conditions that are extraordinarily vulnerable, and in facilities that are well past their designated life." The National Audit Office (NAO) stated these tanks pose "significant risks to people and the environment".

One official review published in The Lancet concluded that, at worst, an explosive release from the tanks could kill two million Britons and require the evacuation of an area reaching from Glasgow to Liverpool. This would negate Cumbria County Council’s strategic objective of avoiding adverse impacts from developments (Objective 2, Cumbria Minerals and Waste Local Plan 2.27)

Allan Todd

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