By Rob Horgan
November 4, 2021 - Plans for a £165M coal mine in Cumbria may finally have been sunk after prime minister Boris Johnson condemned the proposal while speaking at COP26.
It is the first time Johnson has offered an opinion on the controversial scheme which its opponents claims undermines the UK’s carbon net zero emissions targets.
Johnson said that he is “not in favour of more coal”, when quizzed on the Cumbria scheme. However he added that “it is not a decision for me, it is a decision for the planning authorities."
Plans for the £165M mine were originally approved by Cumbria County Council in October 2020.
Since then, former communities secretary Robert Jenrick called in the decision and asked the Planning Inspectorate to carry out a formal evaluation of the scheme.
In February, Cumbria County Council said it would reconsider its decision to give the project the go-ahead in order to take into account "new information" in the Climate Change Committee's Sixth Carbon Budget, and in May the council announced that it will remain “neutral with regard to the mine”.
A public inquiry into the proposed developed was conducted in September and a planning inspector’s report will now be submitted to the secretary of state to inform a final decision on whether the scheme can go ahead.
Project promoter West Cumbria Mining said ahead of the hearing beginning that the mine would feed the British and European steel industry with locally produced metallurgical coal essential for the manufacture process.
British steelmakers currently import all of the metallurgical coal needed for plants at Scunthorpe and Port Talbot, said the body, creating carbon emissions from thousands of miles of ship and rail transportation. The Woodhouse Colliery would create 532 direct jobs, it added.
West Cumbria Mining chief executive Mark Kirkbride said before the inquiry got underway: “We have considered the climate impacts of the project in great detail and implemented significant and world-leading techniques to demonstrate that the resources industry can also achieve net carbon zero operations.”