west cumbria mining

Friends of the Earth to launch legal action against Cumbria coal mine

Image credit: west cumbria mining

Environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth will take legal action against the UK government over its recent decision to grant planning permission for a new coal mine in Cumbria.

The £165m project, which was approved in December nearly two years after it was first proposed, has faced significant criticism over its potential environmental impact and its clash with UK climate targets.

The mine is expected to produce nearly 2.8 million tonnes of coking coal annually which will be used in the production of steel, rather than electricity generation.

South Lakes Action on Climate Change (SLACC) - the other main opponent of the mine - is also considering legal action and sent a letter to the levelling-up secretary, Michael Gove, in December seeking more information and setting out some of the errors in law in his decision.

When approving the decision, Gove said the government was “satisfied that there is currently a UK and European market for the coal” and that it was “highly likely” that global demand would remain high for the time being.

Niall Toru, lawyer at Friends of the Earth, said: “By giving the go-ahead to this polluting and totally unnecessary coal mine, the government has not only made the wrong decision for our economy and the climate, we believe it has also acted unlawfully.

“Michael Gove has failed to account for the significant climate impacts of this mine or how the much-needed move to green steelmaking will be impacted by its approval. The steel industry is under no illusion that it must decarbonise if we’re to meet our climate goals, which calls into doubt the long-term viability of the mine and the jobs used to justify it.

“Just as many jobs could be created locally through a programme to guarantee every home in the area is properly insulated. This would bring a myriad of benefits the mine simply can’t offer, such as lower energy bills, warmer homes and fewer carbon emissions released into our atmosphere.

“With the world facing a climate emergency, we shouldn’t have to take this challenge to court. Any sensible government should be choosing to leave coal in the ground and accelerating the transition to a safe, clean and sustainable future.”

Backers of the mine argue that it will create around 500 jobs for the Cumbrian area and will reduce the need to import energy at a time of high prices, with fuel prices having rocketed as a result of the war in Ukraine.

Rowan Smith, a solicitor at Leigh Day, said: “A critical issue raised by Friends of the Earth during the inquiry was the signal that granting a new coal mine in the middle of a climate emergency would send to the rest of the world. Friends of the Earth believes that this was never properly grappled with by either the inspector or the secretary of state. We hope that the court will agree that this argument justifies a full hearing.”

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