26 August 2020
This week Cumbria County Council Development Control Committee should have been deciding on the revised planning application for a coking coal mine at St Bees. They've cancelled now and the next meeting is not until October 4th. The application is listed as "Awaiting Legal Agreement". There has been a legal challenge by Keep Cumbrian Coal in the Hole, anti-mine protests (suitably socially distanced) around the county and a request from the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) for the Government to make the decision - a call-in which only happens for very significant proposals.
Allerdale and Copeland Green Party has again objected to the revised proposal by West Cumbria Mining (WCM).
We do not believe the WCM claim that the only reasonable way of making steel at scale for the next 50 years involves the use of coking coal. Research into decarbonising steel is progressing at pace and the EU is pressing for regulatory change. With steelmaking contributing about 7% of EU carbon emissions, the climate needs this to happen quickly. If WCM gains permission for 50 years of extraction that could stop the UK meeting its commitments under the Paris Climate Agreement which is legally binding.
We also have considerable concerns about the overlap of the WCM offshore area of interest and that of licensed areas for exploration for Underground Coal Gasification and for Coal Bed Methane, meaning WCM could (if demand for coking coal plummeted, and with further planning consents) turn their attention to either of these two climate-damaging procedures.
Cumbria was recently chosen as one of five pilot Local Nature Recovery areas and will receive a share of £1m (not a great deal of money). It would make a mockery of the aim of allowing nature to recover if this plant was allowed to go ahead, at the only English breeding site for the Black Guillemot. There is considerable potential for disturbance of these rare nesting birds. Furthermore, the sea off St Bees is a Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), and the effects on the MCZ of mining activities under the sea have not yet been assessed.
We do recognise the importance of job creation in West Cumbria, now more than ever. However, we would like to see sustainable, green jobs in line with The Green New Deal, or The Blue New Deal (for coastal communities), not jobs which contribute to climate change, increasing flooding, drought, hunger, poverty and mass-migration because of environmental degradation. Readers can find out more about these New Deals from The New Economics Foundation.
Jobs provided by locally-owned companies provide benefit to the whole community as profits circulate locally, using local support services and supply lines. Profits from this venture will go to the ultimate owner EMR Capital with an office based in the tax haven of the Cayman Islands.