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Planned Cumbria coal mine could be scrapped after government steps in

Image credit: west cumbria mining

A public enquiry is to be opened over the potential for a new coal mine in Cumbria following strong backlash from environmental campaigners.

In January, the government decided not to intervene over a decision to allow the construction of the UK’s first deep coal mine in 30 years.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng later admitted there was “slight tension” between the approval of the new mine and the UK’s plans to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050, but he believed that the coking coal that would be extracted would just be imported if not mined domestically.

Now, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick has decided to “call in” the controversial application as it had raised issues of “more than local importance”, he wrote in a letter to Cumbria County Council.

It said he had decided that a public inquiry should be held to explore the arguments put forward by both supporters and opponents of the proposal by West Cumbria Mining (WCM) to open the deep mine near Whitehaven.

“The Secretary of State has decided to call this application in because of the further developments since his original decision,” the letter said. “The Climate Change Committee’s recommendations for the 6th Carbon Budget have been published since he was advised on this decision.”

Friends of the Earth had previously said approval for the project demonstrated “jaw-dropping inconsistency” from the government. But the latest decision was welcomed by Friends of the Earth climate campaigner Tony Bosworth, who said it was “a startling, but very welcome U-turn.”

“It was not possible for the government to maintain, as it claimed only two months ago, that this was just a matter of local importance, and the decision will now rightly be taken at national level,” he added.

But Mark Jenkinson, the Tory MP for Workington who has consistently voted against measures to prevent climate change, accused ministers of a “capitulation to climate change alarmists”.

“This represents a risk to significant private sector investment in Cumbria and the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda,” he said.

Last month, the government was criticised by a former Nasa scientist for failing to mandate firm climate action in favour of “soothing words and worthless ambitions”.

He was particularly critical of the plan to open the new coal mine saying it was “in contemptuous disregard of the future of young people and nature.”

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