A new open cast coal mine might be open in the UK

New open-cast coal mine could open in the UK as coal price soars

Image credit: Reuters

The soaring price of coal has boosted plans to open a new open cast coal mine in Northumberland, despite the UK’s pledge to phase out the use of coal by 2025.

Up to three million tonnes of coal could be extracted at a site near Druridge Bay, according to plans pursued by the Banks Group and supported by Northumberland County Council. A public enquiry into the project has now been called, just over one year after the UK has closed its last deep coal mine.

“The benefits that come from these sites can't be over-stated,” said Jeannie Kielty, who works on community relations for Banks. “We are frustrated with the call-in because it delays us, but we still believe we can work the site.”

The plan, which is opposed by environmental campaigners, is gaining traction amid the 100 per cent increase in the price of coal over the past year to $100 a tonne. The value of mining stocks received a further boost following the election of known fossil-fuel supporter Donald Trump as the next US President.

Banks has overcome opposition in the past, appealing successfully against a ban on developing another site in the area at Shotton.

Situated on the Blagdon Estate owned by Matt Ridley, a peer and Conservative politician who has said climate change has done more good than harm, Shotton has been mined by Banks since 2008.

Banks says all the coal at Shotton and Highthorn can be extracted by the government's 2025 deadline for phasing out coal-fired power generation.

The company plans to expand. In September, Banks announced it was exporting coal to Spain and it has begun canvassing opinion on a project to extract 800,000 tonnes of coal at Dewley Hill near Newcastle.

British planning rules and the government's drive to close coal-fired power stations do allow coal mining in some circumstances.

The phase-out plans apply only to so-called unabated coal, meaning a company that has the technology to reduce emissions can carry on generating power with coal.

Exceptions can also be made if there is a risk that supplies will be disrupted, a danger heightened by Britain's vote to leave the European Union. That makes the country more reliant on its own resources and less sure it can tap into the European power grid.

Big banks say they have stopped funding coal in Britain, although they may consider projects in some emerging economies. 

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